Mistakes Made on Hendricks Home
Town lawyer says assessment too low, should be reconsidered.
Two attorneys who handle legal work for the Town of Rock conceded in an interview with Urban Milwaukee that Diane Hendricks’ home is under-assessed.
“It does appear to be under-stated,” said Dave Moore, an attorney with Nowlan & Mouat LLP, a firm in Janesville. “This is a high-end home. Whether it is high-end enough is something we need to look at.”
Urban Milwaukee published a story last week reporting that the Town of Rock assessment still listed Hendricks as owning a 1,663-square-foot home built in 1993, when Hendricks has built a newer mansion described in Forbes magazine as a 10,000-square-foot home.
Moore conceded the town still lists only a 1,663-square-foot home. “That doesn’t seem right,” he said.
Timothy Lindau of Nowlan & Mouat, who serves as the Town of Rock’s lead attorney, said “we’ll get the assessor to take another look at it.”
Moore and Lindau could not say why the assessment hadn’t been updated to include the new home, nor did they know when the mansion was completed. Moore speculated that the expansion of the older, smaller home began in 2007 and proceeded in stages.
But the two attorneys referred us to the Rock County tax database, which they believe is more accurate and which has somewhat different data: it shows the home was assessed at $322,050 in 2012 through 2014, and was increased to $341,800 in 2015 and then jumped to $445,700 in 2016. Why the recent increase?
“The assessor is being told they haven’t been allowed access to the home,” Lindau says.
In short, Diane Hendricks did not allow a home inspection. This is legal, and assessors typically respond by increasing the assessment, assuming improvements were made. But even the two increases made since 2015 wouldn’t come close to reflecting the six-fold increase in the reported size of the new home. Hendricks is probably paying many thousands of dollars less in annual property taxes than she would if properly assessed.
Hendricks is the wealthiest self-made woman in the state, with an estimated net worth of $5 billion and considerable knowledge of homes and real estate. Before she and her late husband started their roofing business, she got her start in the house-flipping business, she once noted. Hendricks has also managed to keep her state income tax load low, having paid no taxes in four of five years from 2010 to 2014.
Repeated calls to Hendricks at ABC Supply were not returned. Nor were calls to her assistant Tammy Hess or calls and emails to Katie Goodale, who handles media for ABC Supply. Nor were calls to Mark Gunn, Town of Rock board chairperson, and town board supervisor Pete Parker.
Only Tony Dubanowich, the third member of the town board, answered a phone call, and expressed surprise the home might be under-assessed.
“Really?” he said.
Does that concern you?
“Absolutely,” he said. But Dubanowich added that “I don’t think it’s a 10,000-square-foot home.”
How big do you think the home is?
“I don’t know, but it’s not 10,000 square feet.”
The Town of Rock pays a private company, Accurate Appraisal, to do its assessments. Lindau says the town switched assessors five years ago, from another private company to the current one.
That would mean the two recent, moderate increases in the home’s assessment were made by Accurate Appraisal, which inherited the information from the previous assessor, which still listed a 1663-square-foot home, and the information has never been updated.
“When an improvement is done on a home, the requires a building inspector report,” Moore noted. “I don’t know whether that happened here.”
The current assessment, Lindau conceded, “may well be very low.”
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