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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.

Assessing Your Reassessment - Allegheny County Assessment Appeals

BW-RE-SQ-300x300.jpgMillions of Americans spent Presidents' Day weekend working on their 2014 federal income taxes. Although many taxpayers painstakingly review their income tax returns to avail themselves of any lawful deduction, homeowners often forget to take stock of their real estate tax liability. Thousands of Allegheny County property owners will have the misfortune of being on the receiving end of a bloated property tax bill. Even though 130,000-plus Allegheny County assessment appeals were filed as a result of the 2012 countywide reassessment, thousands of properties remain over-assessed. Some school districts and municipalities have elected to freeze millage rates, but many are increasing 2014 millage rates. Whether the increases are the result of successful homeowner appeals or another revenue-generating directive, millage rate increases mean that real estate tax bills will increase.

Property valuation is not an exact science. Your assessment could be very different from your neighbor's based on the size and age of your home and the date of purchase. At Kisner Law Firm, we have the tools to assess your home's value and the experience to fight for a fair property assessment on your behalf.

The deadline for filing Allegheny County property assessment appeals is March 31, 2014, which is about two weeks before you have to answer to Uncle Sam. When it comes real estate taxes, don't leave money on the table. If you're considering filing an appeal of your property value, contact the Kisner Law Firm for a free consultation.

When to expect property tax millage rates for school districts

BW-SQ-City-150x150.jpgSome property owners in Allegheny County will likely have to wait until July before they know how much in taxes they will be paying this year.

State law gives Pennsylvania school districts until June 30, 2013 to formally adopt a budget for the 2013-2014 school year. The millage rate for property owners is determined by the amount of revenue allocated in each school district's budget after it is approved.

Though some districts, including the city of Pittsburgh, have finalized their budgets, most have not. The Moon Area School Board has begun the process, but is not expected to adopt a plan until June 24. Debate on the budget is well underway in Mt. Lebanon, but a vote is not expected on that budget until sometime in May. The same is true in many other districts around the county.

Will your taxes go up or down?

In light of the recent property tax revaluation, most millage rates will go down compared to the 2012-2013 school year. But, with an increased assessment, this could still mean that some homeowners will receive higher tax bills..

In addition, in the past two weeks, some homeowners have received notice that their tax bill is going to increase based on their school district's appeal of their current assessment. Many of these appeals are directed at owners who recently purchased their property for more than the assessed value of the home. Homeowners who find themselves in this position should consider contacting us to see if we can help.

The Kisner Law Firm

Though time is running short, the attorneys at the Kisner Law Firm are still able to help. Whether you are fighting to reduce your assessment, or to keep the school district from increasing it, our experienced attorneys can make all the difference. We 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.

Whether you are just thinking of filing an appeal, or have already had a hearing and are unsatisfied with the results, the Kisner Law Firm can help. We can step in at any point in the process and fight for you.

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 pursuing a tax reduction or defending against a tax increase.

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

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.

Final assessment appeal decisions may not come for a year

Thumbnail image for BW-SQ-City-County-Bldg.jpgIt looks as though some property owners in Allegheny County will be left waiting for as long as one year before receiving a final decision on their assessment appeals.

Due to the unusually high number of assessment appeals filed in response to the court-ordered countywide reassessment it is likely that some property owners will not receive a decision on their appeals to the Board of Viewers until 2014.

The Board of Viewers serves as the second step for property owners who are unhappy with their tax assessments. The process of challenging an assessment begins with a formal appeal to the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review (BPAAR). Property owners who are unsatisfied with the results of their formal hearing can then make a second appeal to the Board of Viewers for a filing fee of $106.

The tax effect of delayed appeal decisions

The likelihood that some cases will not be heard until 2014 means that those property owners whose appeals to the Board of Viewers have yet to be heard will have to pay their 2013 taxes based on the values that they are challenging. Property owners whose challenges result in a reduction of their assessed value will receive a refund on the difference between their new assessed value and their actual payment.

Municipal governments in Allegheny County have until Jan. 31, 2013 to set their millage rates and pass their final budgets. The communities are usually required to do so by the end of the year, but were given a one-month extension in early December by Judge Wettick. Once those municipal budgets are passed and the millage rate is set, property owners will receive a tax bill based on either their new 2013 assessed value or the result of their formal appeal to BPAAR, commonly referred to as a "first round appeal."

Over 100,000 appeals have been filed

The total number of formal assessment appeals in Allegheny County ballooned to over 100,000 this year. This fall, BPAAR was hearing as many as 2,000 cases per day.

As BPAAR has decided more and more first-round cases, the number of second-round appeals to the Board of Viewers has also risen dramatically. A seven-member committee, The Board of Viewers has divided itself into five panels. The panels are each hearing about 15-18 cases per day.

Michelle Lally, the administrative chair for the Board of Viewers, has stated in published reports that the board is encouraging property owners and taxing bodies to reach a settlement on the appeals that are brought before it. However, the board can review evidence, take sworn statements, and issue a binding decision in the event that a settlement cannot be reached.

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. If you are an owner who wasn't satisfied with your first appeal and are looking for representation for your second round case, the Kisner Law Firm is ready to step in and represent you to give you the best chance of reducing your assessed value. For a low flat fee, we will:

  • Analyze your property using our professional-level databases
  • Prepare a strong body of evidence for your appeal
  • Represent you at your hearing

We are pleased to provide all potential clients with complimentary evaluations of their properties. If we don't think the case is strong, we won't recommend that the property owner spend more money hiring an attorney. But if we believe we can put together a strong case, we will move forward with representation. If you have any questions about the assessment appeal process, or if you need representation for an upcoming hearing, contact the Kisner Law Firm today.

Are Assessment Negotiations Circumventing Fair and Objective Hearings?

BW-Big-Scales-300x137.jpg

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.

Assessment Appeals: Frequently Asked Questions

BW-SQ-City-150x150.jpgThe court-ordered 2013 property reassessment leaves many Allegheny County property owners with questions. Information comes from many sources-the media, the courts, and the county-and sometimes it can be hard to digest all of it. In talking to hundreds of property owners in Allegheny County, we have found that some questions keep coming up. So this page includes many of the most frequently asked questions about the 2013 reassessment and the assessment appeal process.

How much are my taxes going to increase?

The exact amount of your tax increase will not be known until all 2013 millage rates are published. But it is not necessarily true that an increased assessed value will mean increased taxes, because taxing authorities are required to adjust their millage rates down to account for a reassessment that raises values across the board.

How much will I save if I get a reduction in my assessed value?

A good rule of thumb is that every $10,000 in assessed value means $250-$300 per year in taxes.

Should I hire an attorney to represent me at the appeal hearing?

Property owners can represent themselves at the appeal hearing and at the Board of Viewers, but it may be a bad idea. Experienced attorneys will give you the best chance at reducing your value and your tax bill. At the Kisner Law Firm, we know how to put together the strongest possible case for the lowest possible value. After we provide a complimentary evaluation, we only recommend retaining our firm if we believe we have a strong case.

How long does it take to get results back after the formal appeal hearing?

So far, in 2013, we are finding that most results take at least 6-12 weeks to be mailed after the hearing date.

How long do I have to appeal to the Board of Viewers?

If you are not satisfied with the result of the formal appeal hearing, you must appeal to the Board of Viewers within 30 days by filing with the Court of Common Pleas.

Is it too late to start an appeal this year?

The deadline to file a formal appeal was April 2, 2012. The court did allow late appeals to be filed as recently as August 28, but it is unlikely that any any more new appeals will be allowed in the year 2012. However, there may be another opportunity for owners to appeal early in 2013, just as they can in a typical (non-reassessment) year.

Allegheny County, board of viewers, Court-Ordered Reassessment, formal appeal, formal assessment appeal, formal hearing, kisner law firm, late appeal, late assessment appeal, late property assessment appeal, Property Tax Appeals, Real Estate Assessment Ap

BW-Bridge-SQ-150x150.jpgAlthough the official April 2 deadline to file formal appeals is long past, Judge Wettick allowed hundreds of property owners to file their appeals late. Approximately 500 owners appeared Tuesday, August 28, to present their motions for late appeals. The county, municipalities, and school districts that could have opposed the motions for late appeals chose not to contest them, so the court granted the motions.

The next step for these owners is to wait until notified by the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review that the appeal has been processed. The county will automatically schedule an assessment appeal hearing.

How long does it take to get a hearing and get results?

In our experience so far this year, the county sometimes takes several months from the date of filing an appeal until the hearing is scheduled. We know that some appeals filed on April 2 still have no hearing date scheduled yet. When the hearing notices are mailed out, they may be sent only 1 or 2 weeks before the date of the hearing. We expect hearings to continue through the fall. We know the county is working hard to complete all the appeals by the end of the year.

After a hearing is held, the results are usually not mailed for another 6-8 weeks. If the property owner or a taxing body is not satisfied with the results, the case can be appealed to the Board of Viewers.

The Kisner Law Firm can help

Even though these owners won the right to have an appeal this year, they still need to win the actual appeal. If you are an owner who won the right to file a late appeal, the Kisner Law Firm is ready to step in and represent you to give you the best chance of reducing your assessed value. For a low flat fee, we will:

  • Analyze your property using our professional-level databases
  • Prepare a strong body of evidence for your appeal
  • Represent you at your hearing
  • If necessary, appeal to the Board of Viewers

We are pleased to provide all potential clients with complimentary evaluations of their properties. If we don't think the case is strong, we won't recommend that the property owner spend more money hiring an attorney. But if we believe we can put together a strong case, we will move forward with representation. If you have any questions about the assessment appeal process, or if you need representation for an upcoming hearing, contact the Kisner Law Firm today.

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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