Lawsuit against HCAD for discriminating against married couples can continue, judge rules

By David Yates | May 17, 2019

HOUSTON - A lawsuit accusing the Harris County Appraisal District of implementing a discriminatory taxing scheme against married couples can proceed, a Harris County judge has ruled.

Plaintiff Anjali Braun sued HCAD in January, alleging that HCAD is illegally discriminating against married couples by refusing to allow them to claim the full amount of homestead tax exemptions they are entitled to under the law.  

In Braun’s case, she and her husband—who co-own their home with another family member—should qualify under the Texas Tax Code for a 66 percent exemption based on their 66 percent ownership. But simply because they are married, HCAD said they can only claim a 50 percent exemption.

A homestead exemption allows property owners to reduce the taxable value of their home, which saves homeowners money on property taxes. 

“This is one of the most clear-cut cases of illegal discrimination I have ever seen,” said Mahendru, P.C. attorney, Ashish Mahendru. “State and Federal governments are prohibited under the United States Constitution from discriminating against individuals based on their race, gender, or marital status. HCAD is deliberately attempting to inflate tax revenue by discriminating against married Harris County residents in a manner that they hoped would remain hidden forever.  Thankfully, we discovered the scheme.”

HCAD had filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that it was entitled to governmental immunity from Braun’s claims.  Judge Steven Kirkland of the 334th District Court denied the motion. HCAD is now appealing.

“Even before we filed this lawsuit, we urged HCAD to do the right thing and end their discriminatory practice,” Mahendru added.  “HCAD refused and said that if we didn’t like their discriminatory practices, we could take it up with the courts.  Well, that’s what we did.” 

The case is Anjali Braun v. Harris County Appraisal District, Cause No. 2019-07942; in the 334th Judicial District of Texas.

Mahendru, a top-rated Texas trial lawyer and founder of litigation boutique Mahendru P.C., represents businesses and individuals in a variety of disputes, ranging from contract issues to employment and trade secrets disputes. He is particularly successful at securing injunctions for the interference of business.

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