DuPage County agrees to waive late fees for some property taxpayers
DuPage County residents, landlords and business owners unable to pay their property taxes because of the COVID-19 pandemic can seek a waiver of late fees.
The county board on Tuesday approved an ordinance establishing a grace period for some who can't afford their first property tax payment. The taxes are due in two equal installments, the first on June 1 and the second by Sept. 1.
Property tax bills will be mailed Friday. Now property owners who can demonstrate a financial hardship because of the crisis can apply to have late fees for their June payment waived for up to 90 days.
"I think this is the right thing to do," board member Tim Elliott said before Tuesday's vote. "We are giving relief to people who badly need it."
Treasurer Gwen Henry raised the idea after her office fielded calls and emails from taxpayers asking if DuPage would delay the tax collection. There are no plans to change the due dates, but Henry said state law allows the county board to waive late penalties.
"The action was taken to address the reality that many DuPage County property owners have lost income due to the shutdown in effect because of the COVID-19 crisis," Henry said in a statement. "The fact exists that many families who have set aside money to pay their property taxes now need those funds to make mortgage or car payments as well as purchase groceries, medicine and other necessities."
To qualify for a waiver, a property owner must be: someone who was laid off or terminated from employment -- or has experienced an income reduction of at least 20% -- after March 9; a landlord unable to collect at least 80% of rent on the parcel since March 1; or the operator of a business on the property that was shut down because it was deemed nonessential.
Business owners who have received government loans through the Paycheck Protection Program don't qualify for a late-fee waiver. In addition, DuPage's ordinance doesn't apply to payments made through escrow accounts.
Officials say it's unclear how many waiver applications the county will receive.
Henry says taxes for roughly 38% of properties will be paid on time from escrow accounts. She also said there's a number of taxpayers who haven't taken a financial hit from COVID-19.
While superintendents from dozens of DuPage school districts previously raised concerns about waiving late fees, they said they support the ordinance. "This measure is both timely and appropriate," they said in a statement.
For now, the Sept. 1 deadline for the property tax payment will remain unchanged and late penalties will still apply, officials said.
The application for the waiver is available at dupageco.org/treasurer.