Candidate took homeowner exemption on rental properties
A DuPage County Board member making a bid for Congress improperly claimed a number of homeowner exemptions on properties her family is renting out, a Daily Herald investigation has found.
Republican Tonia Khouri of Aurora, who is running against Naperville Democrat Bill Foster in the 11th Congressional District this fall, listed rental properties in Aurora as supplementary sources of income on the financial disclosure report filed in mid-May with the clerk of the House of Representatives.
Khouri has listed her primary address as a home on the 2500 block of Sutton Lane in Aurora since she and her husband bought the property in 2010, records show.
But the Kane County and Aurora Township assessors offices, where the rental properties lie, confirmed the Khouris also received primary homeowners exemptions on homes on High Street from 2012 through 2015, on North Ohio Street in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and on Elliott Street in 2014 and 2015, all homes which are being rented out by the Khouris. Together, the Khouris have received more than $6,000 in exemptions for the properties, records show. All of those tax bills are being mailed to the Sutton Lane property.
The exemption lowers a property's assessed value, reducing the amount of property taxes owed.
Khouri, in an emailed statement to the Daily Herald, said she and her husband inadvertently took the extra exemptions after purchasing the properties. She said she's examining the forms she and her husband filled out for other properties they rent out.
"Thank you for bringing this issue to my attention," Khouri wrote. "We have never applied for a homestead exemption on any of our rental properties. It appears that errors were made by the sellers' representatives and Kane County."
She said an attorney is now working "to rectify these documents and notifying Kane County of (the) errors." She did not say if she planned to pay the money the couple saved through the extra exemptions.
While claiming exemptions on more than one property at a time is against the law, there is no penalty in Kane and DuPage counties for those who do so. Once discovered, the extra exemption is simply removed. Cook County has adopted penalties for claiming erroneous exemptions.
According to Khouri, the exemptions were placed on the High and Ohio street properties "without our knowledge." However, Khouri said a form was filled out noting the Elliott Street property would not be the Khouri's principle residence, but they received the exemption anyway.
Khouri is not the first candidate to be found to be taking extra exemptions. The Daily Herald reported in 2013 that Gov. Bruce Rauner claimed $1,616 in extra homeowner exemptions on a Winnetka home, a Chicago penthouse and a condo, and that Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth was claiming two exemptions on homes in DeKalb and Hoffman Estates at the same time for a total of $1,928 in extra exemptions. Last fall, the Daily Herald also reported that Arlington Heights Trustee John Scaletta had claimed an extra $4,200 exemption on a second property.
Sarah Brune, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, says the issue hits home with voters in this election season amid a national conversation about transparency.
"It plays into what is happening nationally -- people see people in politics trying to take advantage of opportunities average voters don't feel are available to them," Brune said. "As a candidate, increasing trust is key."