Is luxury Schaumburg treehouse a second home that should be taxed?
Is a 112-square-foot, backyard treehouse equipped with all the comforts of home actually a second residence?
That's the question Schaumburg Township Assessor John Lawson is exploring amid the media attention given in the last week to Schaumburg resident Dan Alexander's luxury treehouse on Winchester Lane.
Lawson said another local official, whom he declined to identify, asked unofficially whether Alexander's treehouse should be assessed as a second residence on the same property. That presumably would mean a higher property tax bill for Alexander.
After all, the treehouse does include a full-size bed, kitchenette and television, along with an RV-type toilet in a tent on the deck outside.
"It's unique," Lawson said. "I've never had anyone ask that question before, and I don't have an answer."
As of Tuesday afternoon, Lawson was still researching the issue with Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios' office in Chicago.
"I think if (the treehouse) was on the ground, it would be no question at all," Lawson said. "But it's not on the ground, it's in the air."
Though grandfathered in as a permitted use in Schaumburg, Alexander's 7-year-old treehouse is generating a review of proposed regulations that would prevent treehouses being built larger than 100 square feet in the future.
Alexander doesn't think there's much basis to categorize his treehouse as a second residence, even though he's been successfully marketing it online for the past two years as a romantic getaway for $195 per night.
"I think it's clearly not another household, it's just a fun treehouse," Alexander said Tuesday. "That's a bit of a stretch, if you ask me. All treehouses are temporary by definition."
He said he'd resist any attempt to classify the treehouse as a second residence, and hike his taxes as a result.
"It's seems to me that's a battle I can win because it seems ridiculous to call a treehouse another house," Alexander said.
He doesn't believe the treehouse has had any impact on his property assessment so far.
While the classification of such a treehouse is a new, gray area to Lawson, he said there is a much more clear-cut precedent for the assessment of two separate residences on the same property. This most often occurs on large, opulent properties in which there may be a multimillion-dollar main house with a second, $100,000 guesthouse behind it, Lawson said. Both residences would be assigned separate pin numbers by the assessor's office but appear on the same tax bill.
Schaumburg Village Manager Brian Townsend said the village's administration did not ask Lawson to look into the tax situation.
The village doesn't object to Alexander's renting of the treehouse because he's legally allowed to rent a room of his house and then let his tenants use the treehouse as an amenity.
There have been no reported neighbor complaints about the presence of the treehouse.