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April 2012 Archives

Property Assessment Appeals and Hearings

As property owners in Pittsburgh and across Allegheny County know, the 2013 court-ordered reassessment assigned new assessed values to every property in the county. Almost all assessed values increased, and many increased significantly. In response, thousands of owners filed informal appeals and formal appeals, challenging their assessments. Keep reading for information about the Kisner Law Firm, the appeal process, preparing a strong case, and frequently asked questions.

The Kisner Law Firm

Thumbnail image for BW-SQ-City-County-Bldg.jpgThe Kisner Law Firm helps property owners from all across Allegheny County in their assessment appeals. We can step in at any time up and take over the whole process for you. For a low flat fee, we will take care of everything for you at the hearing, and if we are not satisfied with the reduction, we will even take the case to the Board of Viewers with no extra legal 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 getting great assessed value reductions for our clients. Read about our recent success stories to see the kinds of results we work to get.

We always provide a complimentary evaluation of the property and the strength 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

For the 2013 court-ordered reassessment, the assessment appeal process has several primary steps:

  1. The informal appeal. Informal appeals were held during the spring and summer months. The hearings were intended to focus primarily on mistakes in the county database regarding property characteristics (square footage, number of bedrooms, etc.). This gave property owners the chance to appeal in a more casual setting, without opposition from attorneys representing the municipality or school district. About half of the property owners who filed informal appeals received some form of reduction in value. But most of the reductions were minor, and the other half did not receive any reduction, so formal appeals were needed.
  2. The formal appeal. Formal appeals started in the summer 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.
  3. The Board of Viewers. Several weeks after the formal appeal hearing, the disposition is mailed, which tells the owner whether the formal hearing was successful or not. After the formal appeal hearing, the next step is to appeal to the Board of Viewers, part of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County.
Preparing a strong case

Chairs.jpgWithout strong evidence that the property is overassessed, the most likely result is no change in value. The most common reason cited in the disposition 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 is a great argument for reducing the assessment. However, if you recently purchased your house for more than the assessed value, an attorney is probably needed to address that counter-evidence.
  2. Recent comparable sales. The recent sales of comparable properties is usually the backbone of a strong appeal case. We like to find comparable sales that:
    • are within the last 1-2 years
    • are a short distance from the subject
    • have similar physical characteristics
    • 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 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.
For more information...

For more information, or for a free evaluation, contact the Kisner Law Firm today. You can also consult our Frequently Asked Questions page or our Legal Blog for more information related to the 2013 court-ordered reassessments and the appeal process.

Office Location

Kisner Law Firm, LLC
Gulf Tower
707 Grant St., Suite 2646
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
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Phone: 412-880-5605
Fax: 412-235-6704

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