How To Appeal Your Assessment

Yesterday we discussed how to challenge your revaluation assessment.  We left it after the informal hearing process as after that point it is the same as a normal assessment appeal. So lets discuss how to get more formal with your appeal.

The State of Connecticut requires each town assessor to post the grand list for their town on or before January 31st of each year. The grand list  contains the assessed values of all property in the town. The Assessor’s office has to mail a written notice of assessment increase to the last-known address of the owner of a property that has had an increase in their assessment since the last grand list.  This letter has to be mailed between October 1st and February 10th provided that the assessor isn’t granted an extension for signing the grand list. Included in the letter is the old and new assessments, the method the assessor developed the value, and the procedure to appeal the assessment.

Many towns will allow for an informal hearing, which may be as little as a phone conversation if there is physical errors. However, this is not a requirement. Assuming they either don’t agree with you on an informal appeal or don’t offer that option a formal appeal has to be filed by February 20th or March 20th if the Assessor has been granted a delay in posting the grand list.

Rather than go through all the information the forms require, we have provided two sample assessment appeal applications. These will give you an idea of what your town will need if they don’t provide online access to appeal applications. If they do of course you should just get familiar with your towns. In any even you do need to fill out your towns specific form to file the appeal.
You will note that besides asking for information on the owner, property information, etc. they ask for a reason for the appeal and also an estimate of what you think the value is.  To fill out that bit of information you may want to consider hiring an appraiser to develop a value, although there is no rule requiring it. One important thing to remember is that the estimate of value must be the value of the property as of October 1st the year of the last revaluation, as property values are locked in as of that date (for example if you are located in Canton the values are set as of October 1st of 2008 until the next revaluation in 2013).
After you file your appeal you will be given a hearing date for some time in April to go before the Board of Assessment Appeal. At that time you or your representative should have all the information you have developed to show why your property value should be reduced. Examples of things to provide are pictures of items that would affect the subject’s property value, comparable sales that better show your property’s value, an appraisal or anything else that would support your claim.
If after all that, the Board of Assessment Appeal still does not agree with your appeal request you still have one more remedy. You may file an appeal with the Superior Court for the district in which your property is located.
There are several factors you should consider, when deciding whether to appeal and how far to carry the process. First of all if there is an obvious physical characteristic error reported for your subject you should always challenge. Often these items can be corrected by just a phone call and possibly an inspection by the Assessor’s office so you can show them their error.
If you feel that your property has been overvalued for other reasons, condition, construction, location, or just that you have more similar sales that show they were wrong, and you have the ability to present that information on your own, it may be worth giving it a try as it only takes your time. I would recommend this method if either you are a real estate professional or if there is only a year or two left until the next revaluation and the value difference isn’t significant, e.g. you would only save a couple of hundred dollars for one or two years. If that is the case then there is no point in hiring an appraiser as the cost of the appraisal doesn’t justify the tax reduction. In addition there is always a chance the appraiser will find the assessment is right or even if he agrees with you the board could still reject the appeal.
If, however, you feel that the taxes are over $300-$400 high and you have two years left until revaluation then it may well be worth getting an appraisal as you could save $600 to $800 (an assessment reduction of $10,000 and a mill rate of 30 will save the home owner $300 per year in taxes).
Anything above $300-$400 per year in potential savings or even a little less for more years left on the revaluation, then you should seriously consider looking into getting an appraisal to better make your argument and increase your chances of succeeding.  An assessment reduction of $20,000 in the first year of a revaluation in a town that has an average mill rate of 25 over the life of the revaluation, would mean a savings of $2,500 over the five-year period until the next revaluation.
Property owners of commercial properties and over improved properties are two groups that often can find even more significant reductions as they are often dealing with higher values with a wider variation in values, and mass appraisal approaches can break down for unique properties.
In conclusion, only you the property owner can decide whether the effort and expense (if you get professional help) of an appeal is worth it. But if you feel that you are being over assessed, you should at least consider the possibility of appealing your assessment.

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