22 April 2009 at 10:09:56 AM
It happens every April and May throughout Texas
Texas homeowners become irate that their property taxes continue to sky-rocket!
What Homeowners Can Do Legally To Get Proposed Appraisal Values Decreased
These days it's hard to afford a home if you are not wealthy. The "Great American Dream" of owning your home has become "a nightmare" for many Americans.
It's that time of the year again when Texas homeowners receive their annual proposed appraisal value increases on their homes and properties (structure, land, etc.).
Generally, the new values proposed by County Appraisal Districts will try to increase home/land values anywhere from 3 to 6 percent, but the proposed increase may be as high as 10 percent by law. The appraisal districts send out the new statement near that 10% maximum, although quite a few homeowners have commented that their proposed appraisal increases are closer to 20 percent each year.
It's done this way EVERY year.
Homeowners need to know they have rights and options. Most homeowners don't know what their rights and options are and/or don't know how to fight the abusive property tax system. Consequently, most homeowners do NOT protest their first proposed appraisal increase, which unfortunately permits the appraisal districts to continue this annual method. Most likely, until lawmakers get an ongoing earful from hundreds of irate homeowners, the process will continue.
Now, I'm going to preface this commentary on property appraisals by saying that I am NOT advocating that any homeowner do anything illegal or fraudulent in their dealings with their local appraisal or tax offices, but there are things every homeowner can do to decrease the proposed tax increase determined by the county appraiser by working with the district. It's important that property owners know that the amount of proposed value increases are not "carved in stone."
By the way, if you're over 65 years of age and own a home, you qualify for a county tax freeze and should contact your appraisal district immediately to apply for it.
If you are legally disabled, you may qualify for a school tax freeze and one or more exemptions. If you are a Veteran, there is a partial exemption for you. Every homeowner qualifies for a homestead exemption. Two years ago the legislature and voters approved a complete tax exemption for 100% Disabled Veterans; however, currently the legislature is considering a House and a Senate bill that enables counties to provide the exemption. The bills also have a consideration for Disabled Veterans who receive less than 100 percent disability.
During the past seven years, there have been quite a few cases where property taxes in some districts have risen to a total of more than 500 percent. [That may sound crazy and illegal, but it's happened to some, including myself. I won't go into how this may occur because it doesn't happen to most homeowners.]
Also during that time period many homeowners have lost their property to foreclosure or have had to sell their unaffordable homes more quickly for a lot less money than the real market value. A few very unlucky homeowners simple walked out and left their homes rather than selling or foreclosing.
What smart homeowners can do
Of the total number of homeowners very few formally protest their proposed value increases, which is very unfortunate because it permits County Appraisal Districts to continue this absurd and oppressive system of annually increasing our property taxes via appraisal values.
As homeowners receive the new proposed tax increase in the mail, they IMMEDIATELY need to file a FORMAL protest with their Appraisal District. The application for a formal protest by law is included with the proposed value increase document. Note the deadline for filing, as usually it is just a few weeks from the time you receive the proposed appraisal increase.
Upon receiving your request for formal protest, the Appraisal District will schedule an appointment for the homeowner to appear before the Appraisal Review Board (ARB), usually within two weeks and it will inform the homeowner of the date and time via mail.
Generally along with its written response will be the name of an appraiser for the homeowner to contact to try to resolve the value issue BEFORE the scheduled appearance before the ARB. It really is a benefit to the homeowner AND the district that homeowners try to resolve the value issue INFORMALLY with one of the district appraisers.
Now listen carefully to the next sentence: If homeowners would FORMALLY protest the proposed values EVERY year with the Appraisal Review Board (ARB), MOST would get some sort of decrease in the proposed value at the INFORMAL meeting with an appraiser.
Consequently, it's worth it to almost EVERY homeowner to file a formal protest with the Appraisal District. If all homeowners filed formal protests most districts would have a very hard time hearing the formal protests within the legally prescribed time. You only lose, if you snooze on the issue. No one has to pay the first proposed value increase requested by the Appraisal District. There is room for intelligent and lawful negotiation.
Those homeowners who don't protest the proposed increase in value are doomed to pay the full amount of proposed value increase. It doesn't cost homeowners anything [just their time] to file a formal protest and/or to be heard before the ARB, or to meet FIRST informally with an appraiser. This is every homeowner's right under the law.
The Appraisal System
The members of the ARB are appointed by the Appraisal Districts' Board of Directors. In turn, the Directors are appointed by the Taxing Entities, which are comprised of the county, city, school district, etc. A possible conflict of interest could occur because a Director also may be an elected official, like a mayor or councilman. The Board of Directors has some authority to regulate appraisal policy and also has "influence" regarding community property values as the board works with the Chief Appraiser.
How to Present the Protest
What has occurred currently and more frequently is that once a homeowner finally goes before the ARB, the board generally will NOT provide any decrease of property value. Therefore, a deal generally may be more forthcoming working informally with a district appraiser than actually making your presentation before the ARB. If you make a satisfactory agreement informally with the appraiser, you then may fill out the form to cancel the formal protest. If not happy with the agreement, you still may go before the ARB as scheduled.
Since we are speaking of increased VALUE, it's up to the homeowner to prove that the actual value of the home and/or property is LESS than the proposed value. Sounds difficult, but it really isn't.
Often the appraiser determines the value on comparable properties in the homeowner's area. Upon receiving the first proposed appraisal increase in the mail, it is the legal right of homeowners immediately to request from the appraiser AT LEAST 3 such comparable properties. Once received, the protesting homeowner must prove that the comparables are of higher value than his/her house and/or property.
Homeowners should document a list in writing of the legitimate reasons (not emotional ones) why the home and/or land values are NOT comparable to those provided by the appraiser. In addition, it's a VERY good idea to bring along photos that prove any sort of devaluation of the property in question, e.g., photos of mold infestation, a rotting roof, foundation problems, need for external painting --- virtually anything that can show a devaluation. If, for some reason, the district did not use comparables or does not provide them to the homeowner when asked, which it must, the same method of list and photos should be used in presenting why the homeowner protests the proposed increase in value.
With such documentation and photo proof, the appraiser would be hard-pressed not to decrease the proposed value of the home and/or land.
There is an old saying --- "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." It is especially true of the property tax appraisal system. It would benefit most homeowners to protest the Appraisal District's proposed property value increase. To do nothing is to ensure that you continually will pay top dollar property tax increases EVERY year.
What about YOUR County Appraisal System?
Lastly, every tax appraisal district is a little different. If you are unhappy with how your district works with you/homeowners, since most of those working at top level positions for the Appraisal District are appointed, it is paramount that district residents register formal complaint and if needed group together to vote-out (incumbents) elected county and district officials. After the new officials are elected and placed into office, they will appoint other individuals to be part of the County Appraisal District.
Another option for voters is to write and phone state officials and demand that they repair the broken county appraisal district system. It is an infantilizing and oppressive method for taxing homeowners and it needs to be changed.
At least for the past 7 years many homeowners have been over-appraised and therefore overtaxed by local districts.
Homeowners do NOT have to accept the [first] proposed value increase.
The best thing to do first [once you received your proposed appraisal] is to phone and/or meet with your district's appraiser to discuss the proposed increase. Ask for the 3 comparables used by the appraiser when computing the appraisal. When meeting with the appraiser be sure to bring to the meeting ANY documents, photos, etc., to show why your home/property is NOT valued at the proposed increase.
If you can't work things out to your satisfaction, you have the right to file a formal protest with the ARB. Be aware that you must file the formal protest WITHIN 2 WEEKS OF RECEIVING YOUR PROPOSED APPRAISAL INCREASE STATEMENT.
Along with the district's statement mailed out each year is a copy of your rights and the steps you need to take to work out an agreement or to file a formal protest with the ARB.
Lastly, and very importantly, speak to your district office without anger or emotions. Provide ONLY the facts, documentation, photos, and at least one good reason why your property value should be less than the one proposed. Most of the time you will receive a positive outcome.
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1 - pstern
22 Apr 2009 @ 11:39:20 AM
Of course, the last option is to hire a reputable attorney with successful experience in your district to represent you before the ARB.
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