Landlords with apartment buildings in Ames, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines are suing the state. The group says the state’s unfairly taxing apartment buildings at 100 percent of their assessed value, while condominiums are taxed at half that. Michael Dee, an attorney from Des Moines, is representing the apartment owners. “It’s a last resort for the apartment owners in this state,” Dee says. “They have tried all sorts of different ways at the local level and the state level to get some action and so now, the last resort is court action to try to get this differential declared unconstitutional.” Dee says the higher property tax bill is wrapped into the rent that apartment dwellers pay. Ed Conlin of Des Moines is one of the apartment owners who’s suing the state. “I’ve got apartments (in Ames) and they’re paying just over $3000 per apartment per year,” Conlin says. “The house next door, an English half-timber, a beautiful home with a garage, a yard, a garden, a fireplace, a basement (is paying) $1600. That’s not fair.” Apartments are taxed at the same rate as commercial buildings, and Dee — the attorney — says apartment owners really don’t have the option of converting their apartments to condos in order to reduce their property tax bill. “A lot of the counties have instituted ordinances, regulations, that kind of thing, that make it practically impossible to now convert an apartment building to a building of condominiums,” Dee says. For example, Polk County requires two copper water lines be installed in condo buildings, connecting to sprinkler systems. Conlin, the apartment owner, says that’s just too expensive. The lawsuit was filed this (Wednesday) morning. State officials have 20 days to respond, and then the case will be fought out in the courts.
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