With property assessment notices due to arrive in your mailbox soon, you may consider filing an appeal if you disagree with the numbers.
In Lake County, 25,000 appeals were filed last year. That's up from 9,700 in 2007.
"The assessments change slower than the market changes," explained Assistant Chief County Assessment officer Karl Jackson. "It does take time for the assessments to level off so that's why more people are appealing it."
Township assessors are required by law to use sale prices from the last three years, so it is not a reflection of today's real estate market.
The intent of the property assessments is not to individually assess each home, but rather use a formula on a group of properties to help allocate the tax burden fairly. A good calculation, Jackson said, is that the assessed value should reflect one third of the fair cash value of the property.
By filing an appeal you have the potential to lower your property taxes. "If your assessment is reduced more than the general public's, you'll see it on your taxes," Jackson said. "You will effectively pay less taxes on what you would have paid, if you win the appeal." However, Jackson warns, that doesn't always happen.
Assessed values are just one component of determing property tax bills, according to the Assessor's office. The key factor is levy requests from local goverments. If the levy requests stay the same or increase, so will property tax bills.
Jackson said about three quarters of all appeals are successful. He encourages property owners to take a close look at their notices, and to file an appeal, or at least ask questions if you are unsure about doing so.
The Appealing Process
The Lake County Assessors office has made it very easy to file an appeal with step-by-step directions.
Appeals must be made within 30 days of the notice, and are usually filed for one of the following reasons:
- The assessment has a factual error (e.g., incorrect square footage).
- The assessment is greater than one-third of the subject property’s recent sale price.
- The assessment is greater than one-third of the subject property’s market value.
- The assessment of the subject property is higher than that of comparable properties.
On the Assessors website you'll find a checklist for what documents you will need for your appeal, all the forms you'll need to fill out, rules for the board of review and when the hearings will take place.
Jackson suggests before you file an appeal, to call your Township's Assessor to determine if it is necessary or not.
Ela Township Assessor John Barrington said his office is normally able to review assessments and get back to property owners without the need to file a formal appeal or hire a tax rep for those who contact the office in the first week or two. The Ela Township Assessor's Office can assist those who come in at the end of the 30-day filing period with filing the appeal with Lake County and will then review the assessment prior to the formal hearing.
"Our office is here to help taxpayers with their assessments and exemptions and we will work with property owners to help resolve their issues," Barrington said. Residents can call the office at 847-438-8370, stop by, or they can email the assesor directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you appealed your property assessment? Was it successful? Tell us in the comments section below.