“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Hays County Property Tax Scandal
Hays County Central Appraisal District Scandal
Hays CAD has been caught, and then admitted to having improperly acquired, private information to set value of real property.
The recent history of this mess started Monday, May 22, 2021 when they sent me the evidence that they used to set the value of our house. They openly offered five sales from 2021 in my neighborhood.
When asked where they got the data, the Appraisal District refused to say. Since it was obviously from the MLS, I called the Austin Board of Realtors.
Abor reacted with lightning speed and convened an emergency meeting within 24 hours. In addition they issued a statement to agents and a Cease and Desist letter to the Hays County Cheif Appraiser Laura Raven. While I am not at liberty to reveal the contends of the Cease and Desist, it was brutal. Great job by Richard Milvenan, attorney at law!
I then started contacting everyone that I could think of, including an exceptionally bright young man named David Barer of KXAN who did his research quickly and within 24 hours had a film crew in Dripping to interview me. The young lady that he sent, Kelly Wiley, was intelligent, understood the issue, asked good questions. All in all an outstanding job by KXAN. That coverage is probably why you are here. If you missed it, here is a link to the written and video coverage. KXAN Coverage of HCAD Scandal
Other than you pocketbook, why does it matter?
A- it is illegal
while I am not an attorney, Texas Government Code clearly states that your sales information is private and the government has NO AUTHORITY to share it. Take a look at 552.149.
Texas is a non-disclosure state so this is analogous to violating HIPPA to get your medical records.
TCAD, even if they did not directly steal the information, they are knowingly in possession and sharing confidential information.
B- MLS Data is privately owned, proprietary information that one has to qualify to gain access to and then must pay for it.
In addition to being protected, confidential information, the information entrusted to ABOR (or any real estate board) is for the use of only qualified persons, real estate agents, bokers, appraisers and the like. It is proprietary information, paid for by the members of ABOR for their use to serve their clients. Any other use is clearly forbidden.
Okay, Hays CAD has the data, they have been busted....now what?
The ball is in their court.
If Hays CAD will reevaluate the value of all homes without the illegal data, their scandal goes away.
If not...what are the options.
They are several and again, I am not an attorney but these are my thoughts
- The Texas Attorney General can investigate and press charges as needed.
- the Hays County Sheriff can investigate. The Sheriff? Yes.
Now that Laura Raven and the appraisers have been informed of the illegality of using the information, it seems to me, the non attorney, that they continue to use the date they are guilty of a crime. Take a look at the section of the Texas Penal Code which addresses Abuse of Office and see if yo agree.
- Civil lawsuits against the induvial or individuals that uploaded the information
ABOR is investigating who the person or persons that uploaded the data to the Hays Central Appraisal Database. And they WILL discover who did it. ABOR tracks search behavior and even loaning your password to someone triggers an alert. Surely the wholesale searching of every home sold in the county last year is something that they can identify.
That person or persons is financially liable for misusing the MLS data.
Civil Lawsuits against the members of Hays CAD
If you are financially harmed by someone who knowingly using illegally obtained, private data, they are subject to civil lawsuit. There is no reason why you should not file a lawsuit against an appraiser or an ARB member.
Class Action Lawsuit
Travis CAD has been the subject of a class action lawsuit for their shady activity. There is no reason why Hays CAD should not face a Class Action Lawsuit if they fail to clean up this scandal
What Can You Do?
If you filed a protest and have not had your hearing, IMMEDIATELY ask for the evidence that HCAD used for evaluating the value of your property.
If they send you sales data from 2021 home sales, email me so that I can give that information to the Austin Board of Realtors which is taking an extremely aggressive stance on this.
Inform your appraiser that this is protected information and the it cannot be used.
If you have filed your protest and settled, IMMEDIATELY send an email to HCAD and ask for the evidence that they used. If it contains what appears to be MLS data, contact the Chief Appraiser and demand that you be allowed to go through the process again. She will tell you, that such is against the law and she will be right. At that point I strongly suggest that file a lawsuit against the appraiser who handled your case.
If you have not filed your protest, IMMEDIATELY email HCAD and ask for the evidence which they used to determine your value. If it contains recent sales which appear to be MLS data, email the evidence to me so that I can pass it on to Abor and then email the ARB coordinator and tell them that because illegal information was used, that you want to be granted a late protest. In my experience with her, you will not be successful. Email that exchange to me so that if we get to Class Action Lawsuit, they have all of the evidence that they need.
A note about lawsuits
They are cheap to file and once we have enough filed, we can hopefully get an attorney that will handle these for a set fee.
It is like when I was robbed at gunpoint and then shot at the fleeing felon, missing. The cop told me "it is better to have the reputation as one that fights back than one that doesn't"
Remember, this scandal dies only if we let it.
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