Milton town officials are investigating why state Senator Brian A. Joyce’s property tax bills appear to be only half what they should be, based on the size and features of his sprawling Colonial Revival house.
Joyce, who decided not to run for reelection amid a federal corruption investigation, quietly put the house on the market in July for $1.725 million. The Coldwell Banker marketing brochure, distributed to top brokers in the town, describes a home that will “leave you breathless,” with 6,444 square feet of living space, six bedrooms, and 5½ bathrooms on four floors. The house has not yet been listed on the MLS Property Network.
Town assessing records, however, show a much less grand house: 3,854 square feet, with eight rooms, five bedrooms, and 4½ bathrooms on two floors.
Assessors believe Joyce should be paying a lot more in property taxes than the $11,711 a year he’s paying this year. If the assessment reflected the true size of the house, they said, his bills could more than double.
They questioned whether Joyce expanded the living space by more than 2,000 square feet without obtaining the proper permits.
Joyce has repeatedly refused to answer questions from the Globe, but he told the Patriot Ledger on Tuesday that he had the necessary permits for the renovations that were done. He did not explain why the town did not increase the tax valuation of the property, as is customary after extensive remodeling.
“The public record is clear that from 1998 to 2010 at least eight permits were applied for,” Joyce said in the Patriot Ledger interview.
However, Joyce did not purchase the house until 2003, when, according to the brochure, “extensive renovations began.”
The only permits in the town files obtained since Joyce bought the house were plumbing and gas permits pulled in 2010 and a zoning variance to attach the garage to the house. Those permits would not be sufficient to cover the construction of new bathrooms, two floors of living space or kitchen renovations, according to local permitting experts.
“As a general rule of thumb, any time you’re doing work beyond an ordinary repair, you need a permit,” said Felix Zemel, the Mass. Department of Public Safety’s building division’s chief of inspections. “If in doubt, get a permit.”
On Tuesday, Milton town administrator Annemarie Fagan said officials are looking into why there is such a large discrepancy between the town record and Joyce’s realtor’s description of the house. The town’s assessors will meet next week to review the files.
“We take accurate assessing very seriously and are looking into this situation to ensure that all residents are paying their fair share and that taxpayers are getting the service they deserve from the town,” she said in a written statement. “We are gathering all the information so we can determine if any mistakes were made, and if so, how to rectify them.”
Town records show that assessors have not visited Joyce’s property since 2002, which was before at least some of these renovations described in the brochure:
“With meticulous attention to detail and masterful millwork, the property offers four floors of exquisite living . . . The custom-designed stained glass windows, architecturally designed home office wing, chef’s dream kitchen, and the unsurpassed lower level designed by a true craftsman will leave you breathless.”
Joyce has been paying taxes based on an estimate home value of $867,000 — half the current asking price. By contrast, Joyce’s former neighbor, Deval Patrick, had a house with similar square footage, but his annual tax bill was more than double Joyce’s.
Joyce is looking to leave Milton, the town he grew up in, after the FBI raided his Canton law office in February and he announced he would not seek reelection. A few weeks before the raid, Joyce agreed to pay nearly $5,000 to charity after campaign regulators found he charged his campaign fund for his son’s high school graduation party.
Since the raid, federal prosecutors have been questioning witnesses before a Boston grand jury about Joyce’s conduct and whether he has used his Senate seat to advance his private law practice.
Andrea Estes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.