Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect Stegall’s property assessments have increased and to clarify the law preventing a property’s taxable value from increasing more than 10% a year.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Greg Stegall, who owns six fourplexes 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 inside one of the units he’s renovating at his rental property on Westgate Boulevard in south Austin.
“Our tenants are mostly low income,” he said. “They’re all hardworking families, and we don’t want them to leave. We like having them as tenants.”
But he’s concerned that because the Travis Central Appraisal District valued his properties higher this year, he won’t be able to afford the increased tax payment, which is tied to that value. Stegall says he’s currently trying to protest the appraisals, but if it doesn’t go down, he says he’ll likely have to increase rent by about $100 a month.
“And when we do a rent increase, it’s not putting any money into our bank accounts. It’s strictly all going to the tax office,” he said.
Texas law prohibits a property’s taxable value from going up more than 10% per year, but according to the Comptroller’s Office, that only applies to a “principal residence,” which is a person’s full-time home, that has a homestead exemption. That means the properties Stegall owns to rent out to tenants do not apply.
“I just got our tax appraisal in the mail a few days ago and it is astronomical this year,” he said.
We spoke with several companies over the phone who help property owners fight tax increases. Most said they were too busy to speak with us Monday.
A representative with one of those companies — Texas Tax Protest — said agents have been on “back-to-back” calls and working late since last week.
“Renters have to bear the burden of property tax increases also, they just do it by the way of their rent going up,” said District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly.
She says she just got an email from her northwest Austin apartment complex stating her rent will go up a minimum of $500 per month if she renews.
“How am I going to cover this? How am I going to make it work?” she said.
Kelly couldn’t confirm if this was a direct trickle down from the appraisal district’s actions, but she’s concerned about rent increases all across Austin.
“We need to make sure there is enough housing so people who are living here aren’t forced out,” she said.