After being renovicted from my home of 31 years early in COVID, I became a property owner. I am grateful to be protected from further renoviction, but most of my renter friends have since suffered the same fate.
And there is no end in sight. Due in part to the grotesquely inappropriately named “Tenant Protection Act of 2019”. Which incentivizes evicting long term tenants. And due in part to greedy property owners who seek to evade the already high rent increase limit in that worse than useless law.
As I say, I am grateful to have a home. Being a property owner is not much different than being a renter. I used to do most repairs and I still do so now.
But there is one new bill: Property taxes. Every other bill as a renter or as a property owner allows some kind of autopayment:
- Internet Service
- Home Owner Association Fees
But not property taxes. And the property tax bill is the one bill that can get you evicted from your home by the government if you don’t pay it.
I tried calling the office of Harry Hagen, who is the Treasurer and Tax Collector for Santa Barbara County. At 805-568-2920. I asked why it is impossible to set up autopayment. The cheery woman explained that it is not possible because they don’t have such a system set up. Nice.
On one occasion I failed to pay on time because the intervals are very strange. If you are one day late, you are hit with a fine of 10% of what you owe. Nice.
Here is a screen shot of their home page at https://mytaxes.sbtaxes.org/ which has this lovely information:
If you continue on this web site and try to pay, you will encounter another barrier. Here is a screen shot of the payment page at the charmingly named “Heartland” company that profits from all of this.
Do you see the box where it asks for your bank Account Number? My account number is twelve digits long. You don’t get to choose it to be easy to remember or to be easy to type. No problem. You probably have it written somewhere in a text file. And you will just copy and paste it into their form. Wrong.
They won’t let you do that! They warn you on their home page that if you type a digit incorrectly your payment will be refused and you may not know until it is too late.
Just to be sure to maximize the chance of entering your account number incorrectly, they want to be sure that you are forced to type each and every single one of those twelve digits.
And when you are done with that, if you haven’t given up in rage and frustration, they want you to type each and every single one of those twelve digits a second time. Just to be sure. Really sure.
But at least they let you save your payment information for next time, right? Of course not! How silly of you!
If you dare to call that number 805-568-2920 to express your frustration, a very annoyed person will tell you that OTHER people are able to pay on line. I am sure that if they required you to crawl across broken glass to pay, OTHER people might do that, too.
I have a better idea: Maybe if enough people call that number and ask for a better payment system, they might listen? Maybe if we ask our elected officials that might help?
And if our esteemed Treasurer and Tax Collector for Santa Barbara County can’t fix the problem, maybe it is time for a new Treasurer and Tax Collector for Santa Barbara County?
– Robert Bernstein