Luxury Schaumburg treehouse creates tax quandary

  • The Cook County assessor's office Wednesday said further study is needed to determine if Schaumburg resident Dan Alexander's luxury treehouse should be taxed as either a second residence or a commercial property.

      The Cook County assessor's office Wednesday said further study is needed to determine if Schaumburg resident Dan Alexander's luxury treehouse should be taxed as either a second residence or a commercial property. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • The Cook County assessor's office Wednesday said further study is needed to determine if Schaumburg resident Dan Alexander's luxury treehouse should be taxed as either a second residence or a commercial property.

      The Cook County assessor's office Wednesday said further study is needed to determine if Schaumburg resident Dan Alexander's luxury treehouse should be taxed as either a second residence or a commercial property. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Is this a photo of one house or two? The Cook County assessor's office is still researching whether Dan Alexander's backyard treehouse constitutes a second residence on the property.

      Is this a photo of one house or two? The Cook County assessor's office is still researching whether Dan Alexander's backyard treehouse constitutes a second residence on the property. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/14/2015 3:08 PM

There are no quick or easy answers as to whether a luxurious treehouse in a Schaumburg backyard should be taxed as either a second home or a commercial property, the Cook County assessor's office said Wednesday.

The county assessor's office was asked by Schaumburg Township Assessor John Lawson to consider the question about Dan Alexander's 112-square-foot treehouse, which he rents out as a romantic getaway.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Maura Kownacki, spokeswoman for the county assessor's office, said assessing treehouses is a largely unknown quantity, but the office is also in the midst of reclassifying bed-and-breakfasts from residential to commercial property.

Whether the bed-and-breakfast issue applies to Alexander's treehouse can't be immediately known, Kownacki said.

Though the treehouse includes a full bed, kitchenette, TV, fireplace, air conditioning and a portable toilet, it is a structure without a foundation or permanent anchor to the ground, Kownacki said.

An addition to Alexander's house was recorded by the assessor's office in 2013, but so far the treehouse has had no impact on Alexander's property value or taxes, she said.

Usually, the kinds of changes that would affect a property's assessment are brought to the county's attention when the homeowner applies for a permit.

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But Schaumburg is only now pursuing regulations that would require a permit for treehouses, and they won't retroactively require Alexander to get a permit.

The Cook County assessor's office will make a fresh inspection of Alexander's property in the next few months -- so he would be able to appeal any change to his assessment when that opportunity arises for Schaumburg Township residents in late August.

"If they try to tax my treehouse, I will certainly appeal it," Alexander said Wednesday. "They can count on that."

He added that anything short of assessing every treehouse in Cook County could easily be proved to be inconsistent policy.

Alexander has been somewhat bemused in the past week by how much government consternation has arisen over what he says is his fulfillment of a childhood dream. He built the treehouse seven years ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But having talked with Schaumburg's attorney Wednesday, Alexander said he knows he has no further issues with the village itself to worry about.

The village considers his renting the use of the treehouse to be acceptable, just as he would be permitted to rent out a room of his house. Those tenants are then free to use the treehouse as an amenity of the house.

Schaumburg's zoning board will soon consider proposed regulations that would certainly make a treehouse like Alexander's unique, however.

Not only might all future treehouses be required to have a building permit in advance, but they would likely have to be smaller than 100 square feet.

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