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Attorney Anthony Cameron on Mount Lebanon Assessment Appeals

Anthony-Smiling-SQ-pic-bio.jpgHere is Kisner Law Firm attorney Anthony Cameron's take on the 150-plus assessment appeals filed in Mount Lebanon against newly purchased properties.

If you're a new home buyer who has received a notice that your property assessment is being appealed, a substantial tax increase may be at stake. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Tic-Toc - It's Time to File Your Allegheny County Assessment Appeal

BW-SQ-City-County-Bldg.jpgWhile property owners in counties across the Commonwealth enjoy appeal deadlines of August, September, and even October, property owners in Allegheny County have an abbreviated window of opportunity to file their appeals. For 2014, the assessment appeal deadline is March 31. With the total assessed value of residential properties in some communities rising nearly 20% since 2012, property owners should take advantage of this small window of opportunity to file an Allegheny County assessment appeal.

As a result of the reassessment, nearly 133,000 appeals were filed. By January 1, 2014, less than 14,000 of those appeals remained outstanding. The Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review has seen the number of appeals filed in 2014 drop by nearly 95%. The reassessment, popularly heralded as "flawed" by property owners county-wide can only be corrected through the appeal.

Time is running out. Don't miss your opportunity to file an appeal and potentially save thousands of dollars in taxes. Contact the Kisner Law Firm today for a free consultation regarding your Allegheny County assessment appeal.

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.

Informal Appeal Results Good for Some, Others Need Formal Hearings

Thumbnail image for BW-SQ-City-County-Bldg.jpgEarlier this week, Allegheny County mailed the last informal appeal results. It has been reported that about half of the informal appeals resulted in value changes. This may appear to be a very positive result for a lot of people, but there are two counter-points. First, that means at least 1 out of 2 property owners who filed an informal appeal did not get any reduction at all. Second, many of these changes were only small reductions, which means those property owners are still facing substantial tax increases. Some properties, around 3%, even saw an increase in their assessed value.

Fortunately, property owners who are not pleased with their informal appeal results can file formal appeals and take the fight to the next level. Whether you are a property owner who saw no change in property value, an increase in property value, or only a nominal decrease in value, a special appeal may represent the best opportunity to effectively dispute your 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 can 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 analytical tools. We use multiple databases 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. Our techniques and tools allow 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..

The 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.

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