David Chiu Helping Balance San Francisco Budget

Real Estate Watchdog Program Generates Initial Revenue Success

April 24, 2008 – Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting announced that the Real Estate Watchdog Program had its first success, allowing San Francisco to collect an additional $1.34 million in revenues after a private citizen informed the Assessor Recorder’s Office of an unreported change of ownership for a commercial real estate property.

In 2006, Mayor Newsom signed the Real Estate Watchdog ordinance, introduced by Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting and passed unanimously by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  Based on a program concept proposed by Small Business Commissioner David Chiu, the ordinance creates a financial incentive for individuals to report information regarding changes of ownership of San Francisco properties that have not been properly reported to the Assessor-Recorder’s Office, so that all commercial properties would be assessed at fair market value and pay their fair share.

“The success of this ordinance is now dependent on the public’s participation — we need you to be our eyes and ears and help us hold property owners accountable for unlawful activity,” said Ting.  “This program sends a message to property owners that we are not going to tolerate unreported changes of ownership.”  Ting recommended that the whistleblower be awarded $59,803 for providing his office with information of the unreported change of ownership.

According to Chiu, the legislation was inspired by an Internal Revenue Service program that has generated over a billion dollars by deputizing citizens to collect lost tax revenue and identify potential fraud.

“This is an example of how good government is supposed to work — we created an innovative program to enlist the help of San Franciscans to ensure that all taxpayers are paying their fair share,” said Chiu.  “We need to ensure that the city is collecting all available revenues, particularly in tight budget years when every dollar is needed for critical city services.”