BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. -- A Blue Springs man's lease includes a monthly fee for something called an “Obamacare Surtax.” But when he couldn't find any evidence that such a tax exists, he called Fox 4 Problem Solver Linda Wagar for help.
This story intrigued Problem Solvers because we'd never heard of such a tax, yet the owners of an apartment complex have been collecting it for more than a year and keep insisting to their tenants that it's real.
Russ Wilson said he called 80 apartment complexes in the last month trying to find out whether they charge renters a monthly fee for Obamacare.
“Everybody is like, ‘we don't have a clue what you are talking about,’” he said.
But it is in black and white on Mr. Wilson's rental lease: A $22 charge for a "monthly Obamacare surtax."
Mr. Wilson asked the owners of his apartment, Burr Oak Woods, to explain the tax.
“Many, many times I have asked her about this.’Oh it’s out there. Go look it up. You can find it.'" Wilson said he was told.
Except he can't look it up, because as Fox 4 Problem Solvers discovered, it doesn't exist. There is no “Obamacare surtax” on renters.
Even so, Mr. Wilson says he's paid $300 so far for a bogus tax and estimates the owners of the 84-unit complex have taken in about $40,000 overall. They first started collecting the tax in 2013.
They need to be held accountable. I just really want them to stop,” he said.
To get answers, Problem Solvers paid a visit to one of the owners of Burr Woods, Marilyn Gaar, who insisted what she's doing is perfectly legal.
Here's how she figures it. Because the Affordable Care Act included a 3.8 tax on people with investment income who earn more than $250,000 a year, she insists it increased her taxes, so she's just passing her tax increase onto her tenants.
“So that people who live here who do not have great incomes understand that they are paying for this,” Gaar said.
Really? Gaar admitted to us she didn't earn a dime on the rental property last year, meaning she wouldn't owe the Obamacare investment tax.
If she had, it would have been perfectly legal for Gaar to have raised rents to cover any increase in costs she may be facing. But attorney Bernard Brown says you can't just make up a tax and stick it on a lease.
“That's simply a deceptive statement. It would make an ordinary person signing a agreement like that think there is a tax, a government charge that they are required to pay,” Brown said.
Brown said she should return the money he said she deceptively collected from her renters. But when we asked Gaar about that, her answer wasn't encouraging…
“No. Look how it’s set up. It's the total rent, total payment that they owe,” she said.
The total payment, but one that includes a monthly Obamacare surtax, a tax which doesn't exist. After talking with the owner at length, she is now considering renaming the charge so that people won't be confused.
Meanwhile, several of her renters are now talking to an attorney and considering suing the complex for violating Missouri's consumer protection law.