Realtor helps homeowners fight sky-high Tarrant property values. Was he a target for it?

·3 min read

In Texas, property taxes will hit you where income tax doesn’t. That’s not a bad joke; that’s reality.

The Tarrant Appraisal District Board of Directors (TAD) appraises property and tax rates are based on that data. This year, Chandler Crouch, broker and founder of Chandler Crouch Realtors, filed 28,000 protests on behalf of frustrated homeowners.

Instead of a clap on the back, he got slapped with an investigation by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. How?

Randy Armstrong, director of residential appraisal at TAD, the very entity whose work Crouch has protested, submitted multiple complaints to the state. While Armstrong claimed he was reporting Crouch as a private citizen, he used his official title and contact information in the complaint, making it appear that he was acting on behalf of the district as a whole.

Tax consultant Chandler Crouch speaks to the Tarrant Appraisal District Board of Directors at its meeting on June 10.
Tax consultant Chandler Crouch speaks to the Tarrant Appraisal District Board of Directors at its meeting on June 10.

According to one of the complaints Armstrong made, Crouch misrepresented the value of a home in his protest. TAD appraised the value of a 4,871-square-foot home at nearly $1,1 million. Crouch requested a value reduction to $882,000, yet in June 2021, when Crouch filed the protest, the property was listed for sale at $2.53 million with Crouch as the Realtor. Crouch said the listing included other structures appraised separately.

“This is at best a misrepresentation of the truth and at worst, unethical and certainly lacks transparency on his part,” Armstrong said, calling Crouch’s protest “one example of the mockery of the current tax system he continues to make at the expense of other taxpayers in Tarrant County.”

If Crouch has misrepresented property values, that’s a problem. The system depends on honest dealing on all sides to ensure fair taxation that funds our schools, city and county government, and public hospital.

Still, Armstrong appears to have had it out for Crouch for at least three years now. Astute readers may recall Armstrong was also president of the White Settlement school board, a taxing entity responsible for setting tax rates.

Although the Legislature banned such dual positions with obvious conflict of interests, Armstrong didn’t step down right away. In 2019, Crouch confronted Armstrong on this via email and Armstrong replied with a cryptic email that he would “reap what we sow.”

That raises important questions about due process and a private citizen’s right to question government entities.

In the last decade, home prices in Fort Worth have increased almost 200 percent. In 2011, the median home price was $120,000, an affordable figure that mirrored the median income at the time. In December 2021, it hit $325,000, an increase of 25.4% just from 2020. Salaries haven’t increased at the same rate.

When home prices surge, property taxes do, too. But the extraordinary spikes don’t always correlate with the home’s value. Residents often feel stuck paying large tax bills with little explanation. According to TAD, between 2015 and 2019, the number of formal protests in Tarrant County rose by 170 percent. Yet protest rates in other large Texas counties had increased by relatively small amounts.

Armstrong argues that Crouch has filed too many protests and couldn’t possibly represent them properly. Perhaps so, but is volume really the issue here, or is it the fact that so many people are pushing back in anticipation of ominous, high tax bills?

Has Crouch broken the law by filing a significant number of protests? If not, what is the real foundation of the complaint? The board voted Thursday to inform the state licensing department that the complaint from Armstrong was not an official action of the board.

It’s a start. It also wouldn’t hurt TAD to succumb to the audits Sen. Jane Nelson requested in April 2020, but no one has seen any results.

If the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations complaint amounts to retaliation against Crouch for protests, someone must be held accountable.

We need answers.

Updated Thursday afternoon to reflect the board’s action.

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