Texas landlord fights tax hikes to keep rent low

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Greg Stegall, owner of six quadruplexes in Austin, said he loves fixing things.

“My wife and I have been worker bees our whole lives,” he said.

We spoke to him Monday in one of the units he is renovating in his rental building on Westgate Boulevard in South Austin.

“Our tenants are mostly low income,” he said. “These are all hard-working families and we don’t want them to leave. We love having them as tenants.

But he fears the property tax hike he faces after the Travis County Assessment District raised property values ​​will force some of those tenants out. Stegall says he’s currently trying to fight the tax hike, but if the assessment office doesn’t budge, he says he’ll likely have to raise the rent by about $100 a month.

“And when we do a rent increase, it doesn’t put money in our bank accounts. Everything goes strictly to the tax office,” he said.

Texas law prohibits your property taxes from increasing more than 10% per year, but according to the Comptroller’s Office, this only applies to your “principal residence,” which is your full-time residence. This means that properties that Stegall owns to rent out to tenants do not apply.

“I just got our tax assessment in the mail a few days ago and it’s astronomical this year,” he said.

We spoke by phone with several companies that help homeowners fight tax increases. Most said they were too busy to talk to us on Monday.

A representative for one such company – Texas Tax Protest – said officers have been on “consecutive” calls and working late since last week.

“Tenants also have to bear the brunt of property tax increases, they just do it through their rent increases,” said District 6 council member Mackenzie Kelly.

She says she just got an email from her northwest Austin apartment complex saying her rent will go up at least $500 a month if she renews.

“How am I going to cover this? How am I going to make it work? ” she says.

Kelly could not confirm whether this was a direct effect of the actions of the Assessment District, but she is concerned about rent increases throughout Austin.

“We have to make sure there is enough housing so that the people who live here are not evicted,” she said.

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