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Only days left until property assessment appeal deadline

Thumbnail image for BW-SQ-City-County-Bldg.jpgThe last day for Allegheny County property owners to appeal the new assessed values is Monday, April 1-only days away. A year ago, it looked like the owners would not be able to file any appeals early in 2013. But earlier this year, the county changed the law, allowing everyone a second chance to fight their assessments.

Tax bills are being sent out now all over Allegheny County, and property owners are starting to see how significant the increases are as a result of the county-wide reassessment. Assessments for some properties increased by 50%, 100%, or even more. These staggering increases put pressure on homeowners struggling to meet the additional tax burden.

Even owners who tried unsuccessfully to appeal last year are eligible to file a new appeal this year. Thousands of owners filed informal or formal appeals in 2012 but were not able to obtain any reduction. Some just gave up because the process seemed to difficult or daunting.

If your assessment is too high, you need to contact an experienced real estate attorney on your side to help you fight it.

The Kisner Law Firm

The attorneys at the Kisner Law Firm have helped hundreds of property owners in Allegheny County reduce their property assessments. For a single flat fee, we pledge to fight for you through the administrative appeal process and even to the state court system to get the best possible result. We are happy to discuss your case with you personally to help you understand the process and to help you make an informed decision about filing an appeal.

Contact one of our attorneys today by calling (412) 208-4263
or by sending us an email.

Our clients appreciate the personal service they get from our attorneys as we help guide them through the appeal process with hundreds of dollars in tax savings at stake.

Filing deadline

Remember, the deadline to file an appeal of your 2013 property assessment is Monday, April 1.

Should You Appeal Your Allegheny Property Reassessment?

court-house.jpgYou just received the notice of reassessment for your Allegheny County property, and the assessed value went up significantly. You no doubt have a lot of questions on your mind. How much are your taxes going to go up? Should you file an appeal? Should you file an informal or a formal appeal? How do you know whether your appeal case is strong? What kind of evidence is persuasive at the appeal hearing? What are the risks with filing an appeal? The Kisner Law Firm is representing homeowners from all over Allegheny County, helping them to answer these questions.

How much will your taxes increase?

It is difficult to say how much your taxes will change until the new millage rates come out for each municipality. It is probably safe to assume that the millage rates will be adjusted, though. In most areas, assessed values went up, which means the taxing authorities are required to adjust their millage rates down. For many property owners, even though their assessed values went up, their taxes will actually go down because of the millage rate adjustments. See a previous article with examples using estimated millage rates for the City of Pittsburgh.

What makes a strong case for appeal?

Appealing a property assessment is a complicated legal action, but some general principles apply to most cases. These are the most common factors that we see that contribute to the strength of a case:

  1. The recent sale of the subject property. If you recently (within the past 2-3 years) bought your house for an amount less than the assessed value, that is a great argument for reducing the assessment. If, however, you recently purchased your house for an amount greater than the assessed value, that will be strong evidence against any reduction. It's hard to argue that you bought a property for one price, but it is actually worth less than that. It's not an impossible argument, though, and an attorney can help make that case stronger.
  2. Recent comparable sales. The recent sales of comparable properties is usually the backbone of a strong appeal case. If we can find issues to critique with the comparables listed in the county database, we do that as well. We like to find comparable sales that:
    •  
      • are within the last 18 months from the appeal date
      • are within .8 miles distance from the subject
      • have similar physical characteristics (frame/brick, stories, year built, bedrooms, bathrooms, condition, etc.)
      • are the same type of building (rowhouse, condo, multi-family, etc.)
  3. Defects in the property or mistakes in the county data. Physical defects in the property are important, but may not be recorded in the county database. If a roof is damaged and in need of repair, or if there are other issues, those can be evidence of a lower value. Sometimes the county data is simply mistaken on a statistical issue like the square footage. In that case, correcting the mistake can support a lower value.
  4. Appraisals. If good comparables and other arguments are not available, it may be a good idea to order a professional appraisal of the property. This involves an additional cost, typically a few hundred dollars, but it can be persuasive evidence for a lower value.
Should you file an informal or formal appeal?

If good evidence like the kind described above is available to support a lower assessed value, it may be worth it to appeal assessment by Allegheny County. Both informal and formal appeals are availableand effective in getting assessed values actually reduced. For several reasons, retaining an experienced real estate attorney can improve your chances of success at an appeal hearing.

Receive a free initial evaluation from the Kisner Law Firm

If you are thinking of filing an appeal, the Kisner Law Firm can provide you with a free initial evaluation of your property and the kind of case we can put together for your appeal. Our firm has a powerful real estate database powered by RealSTATs that allows us to analyze any property in Allegheny County by looking at the statistical information and comparable sales data. Find out today if you can save money by appealing your property assessment. Contact the Kisner Law Firmfor an evaluation of your property.

Remember the deadline to file an appeal is April 2, 2012.

Are Assessment Negotiations Circumventing Fair and Objective Hearings?

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As the December 17 deadline to calculate new values for residential real estate looms closer municipalities, particularly school districts, are looking for quick and creative ways to resolve remaining reassessment appeals. The solution? Negotiated settlement stipulations that are affirmed at a hearing. The real question is if these negotiations substantively circumvent the hearings that are supposed to provide objectivity and fairness to all property owners.

The Process

Rather than appearing only at the hearings the school districts and appealing property owners, generally commercial owners or those with property of significant value, meet independently prior to the hearing and discuss the reassessment value of the property. If they are able to reach an agreement on the valuation of the property there is still a hearing, as required by county code, but rather than the parties presenting evidence and counter-evidence, the parties present uniform pieces of evidence. This evidence consists almost entirely of the negotiated settlement. While the appeals board has the final determination and retains the discretion to assign a different amount than what the parties agreed upon, in most cases the board affirms the stipulation without independent valuation.

Procedure over Purpose

Alternative dispute resolution methods, such as negotiation, are popular amongst other judicial proceedings and many believe the expedience and party determination of decisions are positive for both parties and lighten the burden on the judicial system. There are those that believe that the same perks of negotiation in other judicial matters are true in the specific instances of reassessment hearings. While this newly adopted procedure is expeditious and follows the county code in form because the board still holds a hearing and issues a decision, some feel that there is a lack of substance in this procedure. The policy is criticized by those that adopt the view that self-determinative settlement circumvents the entire purpose of the reassessment- objectivity and fairness. Negotiations and stipulations are seen to take away from the independent review many believe is necessary to maintain objectivity and fairness.

Concerns

There are two types of situations that raise real concerns with these negotiated settlements. The first concern is that the school district will have more power and pull and may unduly influence the property owner, where the property's value will be agreed upon at a much higher amount than what may have been assigned by the an independent reviewer. The other concern is that time and effort will be more of a consideration to the district and that this will result in less of a value than may have been assigned by an independent reviewer. These two issues contribute to the overriding concern of fairness, both to the parties involved and to other property owners who are not given the opportunity to negotiate individually with their district. Up until the recent implementation of the acceptance of these negotiated settlements almost all decisions were based on the assessments of comparable properties. Deviation from this "objective" standard of comparables has many worried that negotiations will result in decisions based on subjective factors. These subjective factors include the aforementioned situations as well as bias, in favor of or against, individual owners by districts. Without a neutral evaluator to ensure that there is consistency and objectivity many worry that the negotiated settlements will effect not just the parties involved but any future party who may be subject to comparison to the negotiated properties.

What Does This Mean For You

If a district offers to settle outside of the hearing you will want to carefully consider your options and may want to consulat a legal representative before you enter any negotiations. Even if you are not directly involved in a negotitaiton with a district your neighboor or other comparable property owner may be, remember their valuation effects yours.

The Kisner Law Firm

The Kisner Law Firm can step in at any time in the appeals process to provide representation. When the formal hearing date or Board of Viewers court date arrives, you don't even need to attend. For a low flat fee, we will take care of everything for you at the hearing, and we will appeal further to the Board of Viewers if necessary. The Kisner Law Firm can provide you with a free evaluation of your case and the kind of evidence we can put together for your appeal. Our firm uses professional-level real estate tools including a real estate database powered by RealSTATs that allows us to analyze any property in Allegheny County by looking at the statistical information and comparable sales data. Contact the Kisner Law Firm today for an evaluation of your case so you can win the fight to lower your real estate taxes. We request at least one week notice so we can fully prepare.

Allegheny County Reassessments - Final Informal Decisions

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Many of the nearly 69,000 Allegheny County property owners who requested informal appeals as a result of the $11 million court-ordered real-estate revaluation are still waiting on decisions from their hearings. These decisions could have a considerable impact on County property owners moving forward into the formal appeal proceedings. Approximately 47% of property owners who filed informal appeals were awarded a reduction in their assessed value, though some of these homeowners will see less than $10,000 shaved off of their tax bills. As a result, some of the 100,000-plus property owners who filed formal appeals may drop their challenges. Many property owners, however, will not receive a favorable decision. To be sure, half of of the informal appeals resulted in no change at all to the value of their property and three (3) percent even saw an increase in their assessed value. For these individuals, a special appeal may represent the best opportunity to effectively dispute their reassessment. Whether you have already filed a formal appeal, received unfavorable informal results, or missed the April 2nd deadline and would like to file a late appeal, the Kisner Law Firm may be able to help you.

Presenting Your Best Case

The Kisner Law Firm is already representing hundreds of owners across Allegheny County. Our firm uses professional-level real estate tools including a real estate database powered by RealSTATs that allows us to analyze any property in Allegheny County by looking at the statistical information and comparable sales data. This methodology allows us to present the best possible case at your appeal.

Filing A Late Formal Appeal

While the deadline to file an appeal for the 2013 reassessed values has already passed, it may not be too late to get your appeal filed. In late August, Judge R. Stanton Wettick is hearing Motions to file late appeals. Following the procedures prescribed by the County, Kisner Law Firm can step in immediately on your behalf and represent your interests before both Judge Wettick and the Review Board. The experience and professional services offered by Kisner Law Firm can greatly increase the likelihood that your late appeal will be accepted. Don't miss out on the last opportunity of the year to save yourself hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, in real estate taxes.

Kisner Law Firm

The Kisner Law Firm can step in at any time to provide representation, even if you have already had your formal hearing. When the hearing date or court date (for Board of Viewer appeals) arrives, you don't even need to attend. For a low flat fee, we will take care of everything for you at the formal hearing and even at the Board of Viewers (if necessary). We need at least one week notice so we can fully prepare. The Kisner Law Firm can provide you with a free evaluation of your case and the kind of evidence we can put together for your appeal. Contact the Kisner Law Firm today for an evaluation of your case so you can win the fight to lower your real estate taxes.

Office Location

Kisner Law Firm, LLC
Gulf Tower
707 Grant St., Suite 2646
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
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Phone: 412-208-4263
Fax: 412-235-6704

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