HOUSTON, Texas–A Harris County official who claims that the Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) is gouging him, and all homeowners like him, is filing a lawsuit against the District. The dispute involves the taxation of private property owners for common shared areas between neighbors. Once the suit was filed, the government demanded to enter his home and to take photographs. Orlando Sanchez, the property owner, and Harris County Treasurer, notified the media that the Government was demanding to enter his bedroom. Breitbart Texas and other news organizations were present when officials from HCAD and their lawyer arrived.
Sanchez told news stations, including Spanish-speaking stations, that his property taxes have been erroneously appraised and that he has been overcharged for the last 10 years. The total amount he claims he has been appraised is $20,000 to $30,000 on his $325,000 property. He sued because “it is the principle of the thing.”
The Harris County official said that if the Appraisal District loses his lawsuit against him, it will affect many other taxpayers across the county. He said, “Every development in this area, and all neighborhoods in Harris County like it, are charged for concrete areas of egress and they should not.” Sanchez lives in a garden home that shares a common parking lot with 5 neighbors.
He said that the Government demanding entrance into his home is “a right to privacy thing.” A representative from HCAD and their lawyer arrived to find not only Sanchez, but every local TV station and other media outlets at the home. Sanchez, who has been an elected official for over 20 years, says he will fight back against “government intimidation.” He drew comparisons with the current scandal involving overreaching by the Internal Revenue Service.
Sanchez politely asked the HCAD representative and his lawyer whether the documents they had of his home as part of the lawsuit were “incorrect in any way.” The HCAD worker said he had not looked at them. Sanchez also asked them whether there was anything in the house that would increase or decrease the value of his home. They responded that no personal property would either raise or lower the value of his house.
Sanchez wants the “Government out of my house” and he said that the public has a right to challenge the government. He hopes that his actions in suing the Appraisal District will do just that. He wants “elected officials to be just as shocked as we are. Every elected official, State Senator, and Legislator, should be appalled.” He gave interviews in English, and in his native tongue Spanish.
The lawsuit is an appeal of a final order of the Harris County Appraisal Review Board. Whether his case “goes before the judge, or a jury of my peers,” he wants other citizens to know they have a right to fight against this unfair taxation. Sanchez said that tens of thousands of Harris County residents are being overtaxed in this way.
Paul Bettencourt, a former Harris County Tax Collector Assessor and the Republican nominee for State Senator in SD 7, said that “this is a fundamental public policy issue. What Orlando Sanchez experienced today would be better solved through dispute resolution instead of an attorney and the Appraisal District coming into his home.” He says these properties have been platted using these common areas but property owners have been overcharged. Bettencourt says that instead of the government fixing the problem, it has only escalated. Bettencourt owns a business that helps citizens fight property tax appraisals.
Follow Lana Shadwick on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.