by Chris Pickup

A Caledonia woman who bought her Century dream home at the end of October 2016 soon found it turning into a nightmare. Although she was aware at the time it had once housed a private daycare, she had no idea the house had been reclassed into a commercial designation from residential.

She had already paid off the residential taxes to the end of the 2016 year and told council that when her first 2017 tax bill arrived she was deep in wedding preparations and although it was higher than she expected, she assumed Haldimand had a different tax bill schedule than she had been used to.

When the next bill arrived, she realized she had a real problem. It was too late at that point to appeal her assessment so she was stuck with a huge tax bill she couldn’t pay, nor could she afford her wedding.

MPAC, the province’s assessment arm, came to her property three days later and deemed it was a proper residence, however nothing changed on the tax end.

“Somehow, somewhere I got thrown under the bus,” she told council. “The tax people need to do their job.”

County staffer Karen General explained the county can only tax according to the property class. The county can’t change the tax class, she noted, only MPAC, and MPAC took five months to get the information back to the county. Only then was the county free to act.

It was noted she should have received notice of the commercial designation, but she denied getting it.  She had received mail addressed to the daycare but returned it without opening it, and surmised the notice was either lost in the mail or addressed to the daycare.

It didn’t help that her real estate agent was acting for both buyer and seller, a practice that has   since been banned under new real estate rules. Mayor Hewitt and staff recommended she speak with the real estate agent about the matter.

“The change to commercial must have been made before you bought it,” Councillor Rob Shirton said. “It should have been made clear. Between the lawyer and agent it should have been clearly defined that the daycare was licensed as commercial.”

Council recommended an adjustment be made to her tax file.