Thursday, March 3, 2011
Consumer Alert: Residential Property Tax Consultants Must Honor Contractual Agreements With HomeownersLast November, the Texas Attorney General’s Office resolved a 2009 legal action against Houston-based O’Connor & Associates, a property tax consultant that represented residential property owners before local appraisal districts. The settlement negotiated by the State may affect the rights of current and former O’Connor clients who are residential homestead property owners in Texas.
State investigators found that O’Connor’s representatives routinely – and improperly – filed property tax protests without the actual homeowners’ consent. Additionally, the defendant often failed to appear on their clients’ behalf at scheduled tax protest hearings. As a result, property owners who thought O’Connor & Associates was formally representing them at appraisal district hearings lost valuable tax protest rights.
Under an agreed judgment obtained by the State, O’Connor & Associates must implement multiple changes to its business practices. The State also required the firm to establish a $300,000 restitution fund for any clients that suffered financially from its improper conduct. The restitution fund is currently pending court approval. The State is working to ensure that eligible homeowners can seek their restitution payments by June.
The State also required that O’Connor allow customers to opt out on its services if they do not want the firm’s representation during the 2011 tax year. Property owners who decide to forgo O’Connor’s services should contact their local appraisal districts and inform district personnel of their decision.
A Texas homeowner who hires a property tax consultant firm should expect the firm to honor the contractual agreement it executes with the property owner. Importantly, when the agreement pledges that the firm’s representatives will appear at a formal appraisal hearing on the client’s behalf, the firm has a legal obligation to ensure their staff is present to represent the homeowner’s interests before the district. Property owners who believe they were misled by a property tax consultant should file a written complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s Office at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.
For more details about the agreed judgment against O’Connor & Associates, click on the link above.