Top 10 Property Owner mistakes concerning Allegheny County tax assessment appeals.

Posted about 4 years ago. Applies to Allegheny County, PA, 5 helpful votes

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#10 - Property owner ignores the appeal notice.

Many property owners still ignore appeal notices and hearing dates on assessment appeals filed by the school districts and other taxing entities. For 2010 and 2011, we are still under a 2002 base year system, and your recent purchase price is not indicative of that value. All appeals need to be defended vigorously.

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#9 - Property owner appears in person at the hearing.

There can be a real risk to appearing without representation at an assessment appeal hearing. The reason is, if the property owner appears, they can be cross-examined, and their testimony can be used against them. The school loves to hear what improvements you have made, and what appraisals may be in your possession.

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#8 - Property owner focuses on comparing 'assessments', not 'sales prices'.

The primary argument of an assessment appeal should not be comparing "assessments" of your neighbors. You need to argue comparable sales. Although it seems logical to look at assessments, the primary evidence should always be value in the marketplace. The lack of uniformity argument is relevant but usually not sufficient on its own.

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#7 - Property owner wants to argue price/sq. foot.

We have had some very intelligent property assessment clients who have created magnificent spreadsheets analyzing specific neighborhoods price/sq. foot (building or land area). I understand and appreciate the argument, but it should never be the focus. It is too complicated, there are too many other characteristics involved and most of the hearing officers simply do not like it.

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#6 - Property owner gets angry.

People are upset about property taxes, and some of these tax increases are forcing residents to sell. It is natural to be upset. However, anger at tax appeal hearings does not help reduce property taxes..

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#5 - Property owner is not nice enough.

Niceness Counts. For years, I have joked with friends and even advised property owners, that niceness may reduce your property taxes. Unfortunately, it is true. Who would have ever thought that appearance or personality would affect your property taxes?

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#4 - Property owner makes it too complicated. KISS.

Less can be more. Each case is truly unique, and depending upon the solicitor or school district involved, it can be best to simply focus on your strongest valuation method (i.e your best 3 comparable sales). The other information is relevant, but should be succinct when presented. An efficient organized case typically increases your odds in the appeal.

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#3 - Property owner loses at BPAR, and does not appeal to the BOV.

There is the first level BPAR (Board Property Assessment & Review) and second level BOV (Board Of Viewers). If you are unsuccessful at the BPAR, you have 30 days to appeal de novo (fresh or new) to the county BOV. You start all over, with a new process, new rules and often greater opportunity for success. Do not waive your right to appeal to the BOV.

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#2 - Property owner gets bullied by the School District.

Some of the attorneys for the school districts may try to bully property owners into unfair settlements. Do not be bullied. At the same time, you cannot make it personal with the attorney. Often, there may be several attorneys, and a hearing master who want the case to settle. Do not be pressured into an unfair settlement.

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#1 - Property owner tries to represent themselves.

The biggest single mistake property owners in Allegheny County make regarding their assessment appeals is they try to represent themselves. There is too much money at stake, usually for multiple years, not to use a competent attorney. Representation in these matters is affordable and the cost is usually well worth the savings in property taxes.

Additional Resources

www.alleghenytaxappeals.com

Defending School District Appeals

Allegheny Assessment FAQ's

Allegheny Assessment Blog

Allegheny County Real Estate Website

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