Appealing real estate taxes may sound like a no-win situation. However, people can and do successfully appeal property taxes that have increased after a recent assessment. Some of the ways to protest hikes in real estate taxes and win cases are surprisingly simple yet effective.
Just because a property includes a certain number of acres and holds a home with a specific square footage does not make it the same as another similar property. In fact, a property’s value can be much less than assumed because of negative influences.
A good example of a negative influence is a sewer plant that is not far away, or the presence of an eyesore such as a water tower. These negative influences reduce property value because they make it less appealing to new owners. Therefore, the negative influences limit the resale value.
As a rule of thumb, bad neighbors do not constitute negative influences, even if they have an unclean, unkempt property. Yet applicable negative influences may be just a Google Earth investigation away.
A rash of high-priced properties can inflate the value of all the homes in a neighborhood. But oftentimes the properties are being compared in an apples-to-apples fashion. Obviously, two houses built the same year with the same number of bedrooms and baths can look vastly different inside.
A good way to prove that property taxes are off-base is by offering documentation in the form of MLS listings and very clear photographs. A house that was completely remodeled inside and outside, top to bottom, should not be compared with one of the same age that has only modestly been updated.
Real estate agents may be willing to help gather this type of information either free or for a fee, as the information can be challenging to find online without access.
Tax assessors may not realize that a shed, functioning tree house, pool, or other amenity has been removed from a property. They simply assume that it is still sitting on the real estate, bumping up its value.
The best way to prove that an amenity has been removed is through documentation such as pictures or a copy of a receipt to tear down a structure. This evidence helps show that the property has been assessed on the basis of incorrect data.
In some extreme cases where whole neighborhoods have seen a sudden and very high property tax increase, homeowners have joined forces. With the help of an attorney, they have filed petitions threatening legal action.
Though a class-action lawsuit may sound extreme, it could be a good way to get attention and force the issue. The power in numbers can sometimes sway even tax professionals.
Finding out that your property tax has unfairly been raised can leave you feeling like you have no recourse, especially if you appeal the hike and are denied. If you are in this situation, contact the Delaware County real estate lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. to discuss your rights. Our firm has offices in Media and West Chester. Consultations are available by calling 610-565-3700 or filling out an online contact form. We work with Pennsylvania homeowners on property tax issues in all parts of southeastern Pennsylvania including Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.