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posted: 6/15/2014 12:01 AM

Dispute likely can be cleared up through bank records

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Q. We sold our apartment building a few months ago. The new buyers asked us to submit to them a rent roll, which we did. We listed all six of our tenants, the rent they were paying and their security deposits. We gave the buyers a credit at the closing for the security deposits.

There were no problems with the closing. A few days ago, we received a letter from the buyer's attorney stating that one of the tenants was upset because when he left, he only received $900 back for his security deposit. The tenant claims he paid $1,200. Our buyer told the tenant he only received $900 from us so that was all he was going to give to the tenant when he moved out. The tenant is apparently threatening to sue our buyer, who threatens to bring us in any lawsuit.

We checked our records and we have this tenant down for a $900 deposit. How do we go about resolving this? We certainly don't want to end up in court over $300.

A. One easy solution is to ask the tenant for proof of the security deposit payment, presumably by offering a copy of the canceled check. When the tenant moved in, I would presume they wrote you a check for the first month's rent plus the security deposit, which would appear on their bank statement. Of course, they could have paid cash. If it was a check, subtract the rent from the amount of the check and we have the security deposit.

Another option would be to check your bank records to determine the amount of the deposit. It's likely the deposit was made within 30 days of the start of their lease.

Also, the amount of the security deposit is also often stated on the lease. What does that say?

As in any lawsuit, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove his or her case. Absent proof of the allegation, the tenant would have a difficult time in court.

Q. We received our tax bill a few weeks ago and it's gone up again. We are being taxed out of our house. We hear about people protesting their taxes but we don't know how you go about doing that. Any help you could give us would be greatly appreciated.

A. There probably is not a lot you can do about your current bill. However, you may be able to reduce future tax bills. If you live in a county other than Cook, look at your current tax bill. The bill indicates the assessed valuation of your property. In the outer counties, the assessed valuation is calculated to be one-third of the fair market value of the property. So, multiply the assessed valuation by three. Is that a fair value for your property?

If that number is too high, you would have a basis to contest and reduce your assessed valuation. If successful, that would in all likelihood reduce your next tax bill.

Another basis to reduced assessed valuation is arguing that you are not being assessed consistently with similar properties. If the guy a few doors down has your same model with similar upgrades and he is assessed lower than you, that is a basis for a reduction. Obtain addresses of properties in your area that you deem similar to yours, obtain their index numbers at the county website, then check their valuations.

In Cook County, go to the assessor's website and punch in your index number to determine your assessed valuation. In Cook County, the assessed valuation is calculated to be 10 percent of the fair market value.

Instructions on how to contest your assessed valuation -- asking for it to be lowered -- usually can be found at the assessor's website. Assessments start coming out in the summer/fall for the following year's tax bills. Keep a close eye on when the assessment comes out as you generally only have 30 days to file a complaint and contest the assessments once those assessments are published.

• Send your questions to Attorney Tom Resnick, 345 N. Quentin Road, Palatine, IL 60067, by email to tdr100@hotmail.com or call (847) 359-8983.

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