Help for Hard-Up Homeowners

We've all seen those TV commercials by big automakers saying they'll take back their vehicles if you lose your job. Well, how would you like it if you could stop pay your property taxes now - and not start again until you sell your home?

You can do it in British Columbia - the only province offering this kind of option to help homeowners keep a roof over their heads as they weather the recession. BC recently launched its Financial Hardship Property Tax Deferment Program.

As of May 2009, BC homeowners can defer all, or part of, the unpaid balance of their residential property taxes for 2009 and 2010 if they...

  • Have at least 15 per cent equity in their home
  • Occupy their home as the principal residence (no tax deferments for rental or vacation properties)
  • Are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
  • Live in B.C. for at least one year immediately prior to applying for the program
  • Are currently experiencing financial hardship due to economic conditions

I Declare I am Broke

Interestingly, it doesn't appear that BC homeowners have to define financial hardship (or prove job loss, bankruptcy, problem gambling, etc.) in order to get the tax deferment - other than to sign the statement, "I declare that I am facing financial hardship related to economic conditions" found on the application form.

Keep those Local Services Coming

The new property tax deferment program is really a double-win for BC homeowners: It helps with their dwindling personal resources, and assures that they get continuing city services, like garbage pickup and snow removal.

Many cities are coming up short on their budgets these days, but with the Financial Hardship program, the province of BC covers those property taxes that might otherwise not get paid - so municipal governments have enough money to keep providing services to homeowners.

The new "Financial Hardship" program differs from BC's regular property tax deferment program in that it extends the help to homeowners under 55 years of age and it decreases the home equity requirement from 25 to 15 per cent.

Hopefully, this new model in BC will keep substantially more people stay in their homes during the next lean year and a half. And maybe the same kind of support is coming soon from other provinces...

If not, then yours may be one of the unfortunate towns and cities where home values drop and you hope to get your property taxes reassessed downwards - to no avail.

"Even if you do appeal, they may simply increase the tax levy in order to get the same amount from you," notes the HGTV Real Estate blog, Front Door.

What do you think? Would you take advantage of a "financial hardship property tax deferment program" if it existed where you live? Leave your comments below.

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