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Hussein v. Cook County Assessor's Office

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

September 19, 2017

RIBHIEH HUSSEIN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
COOK COUNTY ASSESSOR'S OFFICE; JOSEPH BERRIOS, Assessor; DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS, ERRONEOUS HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION DEPARTMENT, Defendants-Appellees. EXEMPTION TYPE TAX YEAR PRINCIPAL INTEREST PER ANNUM PENALTY ACCRUING INTEREST TOTAL EXEMPTION TYPE TAX YEAR PRINCIPAL INTEREST PER ANNUM PENALTY ACCRUING INTEREST TOTAL EXEMPTION TYPE TAX YEAR PRINCIPAL INTEREST PER ANNUM PENALTY ACCRUING INTEREST TOTAL EXEMPTION TYPE TAX YEAR PRINCIPAL INTEREST PER ANNUM PENALTY ACCRUING INTEREST TOTAL

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 15 L 50407 The Honorable Carl Anthony Walker, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE PUCINSKI delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Fitzgerald Smith and Justice Lavin concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          PUCINSKI JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The plaintiff, Ribhieh Hussein, appeals from the trial court's affirmance of a decision issued by the Department of Erroneous Homestead Exemption Administrative Hearings ("Department"), finding that the plaintiff was liable for back taxes, interest, and penalties totaling $58, 377.54 for erroneous homestead exemptions on four properties that she owned. This amount included back taxes, interest, and penalties for tax years 2007 through 2013.

         ¶ 2 On appeal, the plaintiff argues that (1) before the Cook County Assessor's Office

("Assessor") could collect interest and penalties, it first bore the burden of proof of demonstrating that the erroneous homestead exemptions placed on the plaintiff's properties were not a result of clerical error and that the Assessor failed to carry that burden in this case; and (2) even if the burden of proving clerical error or omission belonged to the plaintiff, she presented sufficient evidence at the hearing to carry that burden. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the burden of proving clerical error or omission belongs to the plaintiff and that she failed to sustain that burden. We also find, however, that the portion of the Department's order finding the plaintiff liable for back taxes, interest, and penalties for tax year 2007 exceeded the Department's authority and, thus, must be vacated as void.

         ¶ 3 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 In 2013, the Illinois General Assembly enacted section 9-275 of the Illinois Property Tax Code ("Code") (35 ILCS 200/9-275 (West 2014)), which provides the Assessor the ability to place liens on taxpayers' property for unpaid property taxes, interest, and penalties resulting from the application of homestead exemptions to which the taxpayers were not entitled ("erroneous homestead exemptions"). As provided in the version of section 9-275 in effect when the Assessor sought to collect unpaid taxes from the plaintiff in 2014, the Assessor was entitled to record a lien against property for which the property owner received "3 or more erroneous homestead exemptions for real property, including at least one erroneous homestead exemption granted for the property against which the lien is sought, during any of the 6 assessment years immediately prior to the assessment year in which the notice of intent to record a tax lien is served." 35 ILCS 200/9-275(c) (West 2014). In such a situation, the taxpayer is liable for the unpaid taxes, 10% interest per annum, and a penalty of 50% of the total amount of unpaid taxes for each year. 35 ILCS 200/9-275(f) (West 2014). A taxpayer may escape liability for the interest and penalties, however, where he or she paid the tax bills as received for each year and where the erroneous homestead exemption was the result of a clerical error or omission on the part of the Assessor. 35 ILCS 200/9-275(h) (West 2014).

         ¶ 5 In October 2014, pursuant to section 9-275, the Assessor sent to the plaintiff notices of intent to record liens ("Notices") on four properties owned by the plaintiff. We will identify these four properties by the last four digits of their property index numbers ("PIN"): 1001, 1002, 1003, and 1004 (collectively, "the properties"). The Notices stated that a review of the properties revealed that the plaintiff had received erroneous homestead exemptions on each of these properties. Accordingly, the Assessor notified the plaintiff that it would be imposing liens on the properties for unpaid back taxes, interest, and penalties attributable to the plaintiff's receipt of erroneous homestead exemptions, if the plaintiff did not pay the amounts due within 30 days. The Notices broke down the amounts claimed due on each of the properties as follows:

         PIN 1001

EXEMPTION TYPE
TAX YEAR
PRINCIPAL
INTEREST PER ANNUM
PENALTY
ACCRUING INTEREST
TOTAL
HomeOwner
2013
$881.58
$88.16
$440.79
$0
$1410.53
HomeOwner
2012
$809.83
$161.97
$404.92
$0
$1376.72
HomeOwner
2011
$617.88
$185.36
$308.94
$0
$1112.18
Long-Time Occupant
2010
$1609.91
$643.96
$804.96
$0
$3058.83
HomeOwner
2009
$1716.47
$858.24
$858.24
$0
$3432.95
HomeOwner
2008
$1578.92
$947.35
$789.46
$0
$3315.73
HomeOwner
2007
$536.06
$375.24
$268.03
$0
$1179.33

         PIN 1002

EXEMPTION TYPE
TAX YEAR
PRINCIPAL
INTEREST PER ANNUM
PENALTY
ACCRUING INTEREST
TOTAL
HomeOwner
2013
$881.58
$88.16
$440.79
$0
$1410.53
HomeOwner
2012
$809.83
$161.97
$404.92
$0
$1376.72
HomeOwner
2011
$624.06
$187.22
$312.03
$0
$1123.31
HomeOwner
2010
$1428.29
$571.32
$714.15
$0
$2713.76
HomeOwner
2009
$1502.82
$751.41
$751.41
$0
$3005.64
HomeOwner
2008
$1383.31
$829.99
$691.66
$0
$2904.96
HomeOwner
2007
$534.51
$374.16
$267.26
$0
$1175.93

         PIN 1003

EXEMPTION TYPE
TAX YEAR
PRINCIPAL
INTEREST PER ANNUM
PENALTY
ACCRUING INTEREST
TOTAL
HomeOwner
2013
$881.58
$88.16
$440.79
$0
$1410.53
HomeOwner
2012
$809.83
$161.97
$404.92
$0
$1376.72
HomeOwner
2011
$624.06
$187.22
$312.03
$0
$1123.31
HomeOwner
2010
$1428.29
$571.32
$714.15
$0
$2713.76
HomeOwner
2009
$1502.82
$751.41
$751.41
$0
$3005.64
HomeOwner
2008
$1383.31
$829.99
$691.66
$0
$2904.96
HomeOwner
2007
$534.51
$374.16
$267.26
$0
$1175.93

         PIN 1004

EXEMPTION TYPE
TAX YEAR
PRINCIPAL
INTEREST PER ANNUM
PENALTY
ACCRUING INTEREST
TOTAL
HomeOwner
2013
$881.58
$88.16
$440.79
$0
$1410.53
HomeOwner
2012
$809.83
$161.97
$404.92
$0
$1376.72
HomeOwner
2011
$624.06
$187.22
$312.03
$0
$1123.31
HomeOwner
2010
$1428.29
$571.32
$714.15
$0
$2713.76
HomeOwner
2009
$1502.82
$751.41
$751.41
$0
$3005.64
HomeOwner
2008
$1383.31
$829.99
$691.66
$0
$2904.96
HomeOwner
2007
$534.51
$374.16
$267.26
$0
$1, 175.93

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