Assessment Appeals

Allegheny County homeowners are still feeling the effects of the 2012 court-ordered reassessment nearly three years after the County mailed the first change-value notices. The reassessment assigned new assessed values to every property in the county. Almost all of the assessed values increased, and many increased significantly. In response, nearly 133,000 appeals were filed by property owners challenging their assessments. Nevertheless, total assessed value of residential properties in some communities has risen nearly 20% since 2012.

Despite the overall increase in property value, many school districts have experienced budget shortfalls due to successful appeals by residential and commercial property owners cutting into their coffers. Because appeals can be filed each year, municipalities and school districts across the County have responded by filing thousands of appeals of their own. These appeals have primarily involved recently purchase properties whose purchase price exceeds the current assessment. In some communities, sale prices dating back to 2006 have provided bases upon which a taxing bodies will challenge an assessment. Moving forward, prospective buyers should be mindful of the tax implications associated with purchasing the property. If the purchase price markedly exceeds the assessment, an appeal by the school district or municipality is almost certain to follow.

Whether you are a property owner who is over-assessed, or find yourself fending off a challenge to your assessment by a school district or other taxing body, the Kisner Law Firm can help you with all assessment matters. Keep reading for information about the Kisner Law Firm, the appeal process, preparing a strong case, and frequently asked questions.

The Kisner Law Firm

The Kisner Law Firm helps property owners throughout Allegheny County in assessment appeals. Our lawyers can step in at any time and take over the entire process, usually for a flat fee. . We request that you retain our firm at least one week before the hearing date so we can fully prepare to put on a strong case. When the hearing date arrives, you don't even need to attend. Just relax and let us handle everything.

We are proud of our record of realizing a tax savings for every client we have represented through the final level of appeal. Read about our recent success stories to see the kinds of results we achieve.

We always provide a complimentary evaluation of the property's assessed value and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence available before you retain us. Our firm uses professional-level real estate databases that allow us to analyze any property in Allegheny County. Contact the Kisner Law Firm today for a free evaluation of your property so you can win the fight to lower your real estate taxes.

The assessment appeal process

In Allegheny County, the assessment appeal process consists of a few primary steps:

1. Filing the appeal. All assessment appeals must be filed within the designated timeframe set forth by the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review. The window in which appeals can be filed typically runs from the first business day in January through the end of March. Only sparingly and under extenuating circumstances will the Board permit late appeals to be filed.

2. The formal hearing. Once an appeal is filed, a date is scheduled upon which a "formal hearing" will place. Formal hearings are typically scheduled beginning in May or June and are scheduled to run at least until the end of October. You should receive a Notice of Scheduled Assessment Appeal Hearing in the mail at least two weeks before the hearing date. The hearing is an opportunity for the property owner or legal representative to present evidence of a lower value. In the case of municipality- or school district-filed appeals, property owners or representative should attend to contest any increase being sought.

3. The Board of Viewers. Several weeks after the formal hearing, a disposition is mailed, advising the interested parties of the change in value, if any is awarded. After evaluating the decision from the formal hearing, a second appeal may be filed with the Board of Viewers, part of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. Hearings at the Board of Viewers routinely take anywhere from 8 to 12 months to be scheduled.

Preparing a strong case

Without strong evidence that the property is over-assessed, the most likely result is no change in value. The most commonly reason cited in a disposition for no change in value Is "insufficient evidence." We know property owners hate to see an unfavorable result when they spent their time fighting an unfair assessment. After years of successfully representing property owners in assessment appeals, our firm knows what mistakes to avoid and what points to emphasize. These are the most common factors that we use to contribute to the strength of a case:

1. The recent sale of the subject property. If you recently (within the past 2-4 years) bought your house for an amount less than the assessed value, that provides perhaps the strongest argument for an assessment reduction. However, as indicated above, if you recently purchased your house for more than the assessed value, an attorney is probably needed to rebut that evidence.

2. Recent comparable sales. Recent sales of comparable properties are typically the backbone of a successful appeal. We like to find comparable sales that:

  • are within the last 1-2 years or relevant look-back period;
  • are a short distance from the subject;
  • have similar physical characteristics; and
  • are the same type of building (split-level, 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 accurately represented in the county database. If a roof is damaged and is in need of repair, or if there are other issues, those defects can serve as evidence in support of a lower value. Sometimes the county data has inaccurate property characteristics such as square footage, number of bedroom, or style of the home. In that case, correcting the mistake can result in a tower assessment.

4. Appraisals. In very challenging cases, sometimes it is necessary to secure a professional appraisal of the property. Although this involves an additional cost, it usually serves as the most convincing evidence of value.

For more information...
For more information, or for a free evaluation, contact the Kisner Law Firm today.