Zillow wins data request scuffle with local county government in Illinois

Henry County must provide Zillow with tax data for free under the Freedom of Information Act per settlement agreement

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When Zillow asked Henry County, located in Illinois with about 50,000 residents, to provide the real estate company with tax roll data in May 2016 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the government office stalled for a year and then tried to charge Zillow $2,500 for the data under a new ordinance, according to reporting by local Quad Cities daily newspaper the Dispatch-Argus.

Zillow then sued for the data in September 2017, claiming that FOIA limits charges on such types of requests to $100. Board members for Henry County learned last night that Zillow had won this legal scuffle in a settlement stipulating that Zillow receive the data for free under FOIA, according to an article published Thursday by the Dispatch-Argus.

At one point Henry County supervisor of assessments Lindi Kernan told the Dispatch-Argus: “The frustrating part is all this information is gathered basically on the backs of taxpayers. We’re constantly updating information and improving, and we have been complying with those things frustratedly.”

The government office had been providing Zillow with other data including parcels’ assessments and pictures, wrote the Dispatch-Argus.

A Zillow spokesperson told Inman: “We are pleased to have reached an agreement to settle with the county so we can continue to provide consumers with convenient, free access to the best and most accurate information about their homes.”

Asked if it often had this kind of friction in obtaining data, the company said: “Much of the data available for free to consumers on Zillow is from public records, so it’s common for us to work with local county governments to ensure it’s up-to-date and accurate.”

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Inman tried to contact both Kernan and county administrator Colleen Gillaspie by phone for a comment today, but their offices were closed for the holidays.

County administrator Colleen Gillaspie last night told the Dispatch-Argus: “We sent [Zillow] a bill and they refused to pay.”

She added: “We don’t think it’s right because they’re making money on it. They’re selling it to a degree.”

Editor’s note: On Friday, a Zillow spokesperson told Inman that the company was pleased “the judge ruled in Zillow’s favor.” Zillow later reached out to clarify that an agreement had been reached with a settlement rather than a judge’s ruling. The story has been updated accordingly.

Email Gill South.