Challenging Your Property’s Tax Assessment
Most homeowners don’t know that they can appeal their property tax assessments. Oftentimes when buying property, purchasers incorrectly assume that the property taxes will remain the same. However, a change in ownership will most likely reset the assessed value of the property to full market value, resulting in higher property taxes. Either on your own or with the right legal team, you can have a good success rate as plenty of property owners challenge their assessments each year, and between 20% and 40% of them win lower assessments and lower property tax bills.
Tax Assessments Are a Local Process
Property taxes are set at the local level—typically at the county or city level. Each municipality has its own procedure for establishing the amount of taxes owed by their property owners. Some localities assess the value of each property individually, many others value your property based on area surveys.
The assessor uses the information on your record to determine the market value of your property. Your property’s record contains information such as square footage, the condition of the property, and its features. If any of this information is incorrect, the assessor’s valuation may be incorrect, costing the property owner exorbitant taxes. Each municipality also sets its own appeal process for property owners to dispute tax assessments. At Lubliner Law, we are experts in helping property owners navigate Florida property laws.
Challenging Your Property’s Assessed Value
Even if the information on your property’s record is accurate, your property’s assessed value may still be too high. Tax assessors use the sale of similar properties at the time of the assessment to establish the market value of a property. You are taxed on the sales price, plus any increases which can also have a cap in increases if the property is homesteaded. If the value of your property decreases after the purchase/assessment, you may end up paying taxes on an inflated price that you can no longer sell for on the open market.
There are several ways you can show that your property’s assessed value is too high. The most common way is hiring your own qualified professional real estate appraiser. This will cost a few hundred dollars if you don’t already have a recent appraisal proving a lower value. You can alternatively show that properties similar to yours have recently sold for less than the assessed value of your property. You can get comparable sales information from records at your assessor’s office, from a realtor, or online at websites such as redfin.com and zillow.com. Ideally, you’ll want records of at least five similar recent sales that occurred no later than 90 days after your property was assessed. The best sales comparisons are those for properties in your neighborhood or area.
Finally, you can show your assessed value is too high if your property has deteriorated since it was last assessed—for example, due to a fire, flood or Hurricane.
Determine the Benefit of an Appeal
The time and effort that it takes to challenge a tax assessment may or may not be worth the effort. Before you start the appeal process, it’s important to determine the likely amount of money you will save per year on your tax bill. Also, lowering your tax assessment may not result in tax savings because of any tax breaks attached to your property that bring the taxable base below the market value. Tax breaks can include discounts for certain types of property owners, such as the elderly and veterans, or discounts for owning property in certain distressed locations. Most localities reassess property every three to five years, so it may make more sense to wait rather than to challenge. It should be noted that in Florida, homesteaded properties have a 1.9% cap on annual assessed value increases, effectively locking in lower taxes while limiting tax base increases for years to come.
Filing An Appeal
If you elect to formally challenge your property assessment, you must file an appeal with your local appeals board, within their appeal period. How long you have to appeal varies by municipality. In most counties and cities, you must file an appeal within 30 to 90 days after you receive your annual property assessment notice/letter. However, you might be allowed to file a late appeal if you have a good excuse—for example, you were ill or away from home when the assessment notice was mailed.
You’ll need to file a written application for your appeal. This, along with instructions, should be on your tax assessor’s website. Typically, you will be required to attend a hearing where you present your evidence. These hearings are usually informal in nature. In some states, the assessor is required to present evidence first at the hearing to show that the assessment is justified.
A Property Tax Attorney Can Help
The laws surrounding challenges to property tax assessments are complicated. Plus, the circumstances of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. At Lubliner Law we understand the process can be a stressful experience, even more so if you don’t know the ins and outs of your state or locality’s laws. That’s why we have a number of highly experienced attorneys who can support you through the appeals filing process.
How We Work
At Lubliner Law we’ll select a dedicated member of the team to personally work with you — guiding you throughout the entire process. They’ll take the time to make sure that everything is explained to you in a completely comprehensive way – in plain English, so you’ll fully understand each and every step that’s part of this complex process. Your attorney will act on your behalf throughout the whole process whether it’s dealing with Estate Agents, the other party’s conveyancer, surveyors, mortgage lenders or anyone else who’s involved in the transaction.
We are experienced advocates that vigorously represent the rights of our clients. Call Lubliner Law (561) 207-2018 for a free consultation, or email firstname.lastname@example.org – We’re here to help.