Clatsop County claimed liens against 16 Arch Cape properties in March and soon found out the owners had no idea why.

The liens were in response to delinquent transient room taxes spanning between March and December 2012.

Property owners responded to the lien notices and indicated they were unaware of the property manager’s failure to pay on their behalf.

Board of Clatsop County Commissioners voted 4-1 Wednesday in favor of refunding the penalties accrued from the delinquencies.

Suzanne Johnson, deputy assessor and tax collector for the county, told the board that four property owners wrote to the board regarding the liens.

In letters reviewed by the board, petitioners wrote that they had no idea about the delinquency.

The transient tax is assessed for short-term rentals outside city limits, with operators charging renters 7 percent of the rent for the tax. The ordinance was established in 1990 and amended in 1991 and 2004.

The 16 properties in Arch Cape were being managed by Arch Cape Property Services, which was responsible for collecting the transient room taxes and paying it on behalf of the owners.

“We were in contact with the agent all along notifying her that she was late, working with her, trying to get her to pay,” said Johnson.

The liens required payment of the delinquent tax and penalties, she said.

“Once we recorded the liens and notified the property owners … we found in discussions with them that they knew something was up,” Johnson said.

In their rental permit process, property owners designate a property manager to be their agent and act on their behalf.

“The remedy to this situation is entirely up to your board,” Johnson said. “However, staff would recommend that whatever your decision is be applied to all 16 parties.”

Commissioners questioned whether the ordinance pertaining to the matter needed to be looked at in order to not allow the same thing to happen again in the future.

County Manager Scott Somers said that a practice of notifying property owners as well as management companies could be instituted without a change to the ordinance.

“I think we can do an internal policy that says we can go head and notify and work with your designated property manager, but as policy we’re still going to notify you as the property owner,” Somers said.

The interest on the taxes could not be refunded by the board according to the current ordinance.

“Well, this is a very unfortunate situation,” said Chairman Peter Huhtala.

“We can’t refund interest,” he said. “I wish we could.”

Mailing costs and processing of the lien, which totaled $98.36, were not included in the refund.

The total tax, penalty and interest on the combined properties totaled $37,627. The penalties on the properties ranged from$194 to $845.

Commissioner Debra Birkby voted in opposition to refunding the penalties. Chairman Peter?Huhtala and Commissioners Sarah Nebeker, Scott Lee and Dirk Rohne voted in favor of the refund.

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