Property values in the past few years have plummeted, yet homeowners find themselves paying higher property taxes than ever before. Your property taxes are linked to the fair market value of your home; however, when the fair market value of your home is uncertain, the tax assessment may be inaccurate. Due to the slow-paced real estate market, fewer homes are being purchased, making it difficult to get a fair estimate of what someone might pay for a home in your area, let alone a home similar to yours. Assessors do not have the raw data to work with as they did in the past, so they must refer to outdated information and do the best they can. Therefore, because many homeowners feel they have more accurate information than the assessor, they decide to appeal the assessment of their property.
Appealing your tax assessment is a daunting task, but if you are up for the challenge, there are a few things you should remember. Although the assessment of real property in State of Illinois is governed by Illinois law, each county and township can create additional rules and filing procedures. And, even though your individual township’s assessor may be the office actually valuating your property and mailing the notice of reassessment, assessment appeals are often processed through your county. Also, since each county has its own appeal procedure, it is crucial to read through your county’s rules for filing the appeal. For example, Downers Grove residents will receive their assessment from the Downers Grove Township, but will need to follow the Rules of the DuPage County Board of Review.
Most counties have a strict time limit in which you can file your appeal. For example, DuPage County residents have 30 days from the date the assessment was published to send the Board of Review the appeal form and supplemental documentation. The last day to file an assessment appeal is typically provided on your assessment notice. All documentation must be filled out appropriately and sent to the Board by this date or the resident is barred from appealing his or her tax assessments.
Once it is clear that the time limit has not expired, you will need to fill out the required forms and provide supplemental documentation before the review board will give you a hearing to argue your position. Assessments can be appealed for two reasons: (1) the property was assessed at more than one-third (1/3) of its market value or sale price or (2) the property was assessed at an amount not uniform with the rest of the community. In either case, sufficient documentation needs to be provided to support your claim that the value of your home is not what it was assessed at. In order to do this, you should provide the review board with more detailed information about your property, as well as detailed information about other comparable properties in the area. Documentation may be in the form of:
In many counties, residents are required to fill out a residential grid form, comparing specific features of the property in question to other properties with similar features that have been recently sold in the neighborhood. Specific features often include: lot acreage, building and basement square footage, age of building, number of bathrooms, air conditioning, fireplaces, pools, decks, etc. It is important to find comparable properties with as many similar features to your property as you can. Taking the time to acquire accurate information and to diligently fill out the forms is the most crucial stage of the process.
If you fill out the forms completely and provide the best possible documentation available, you should hear back from the review board with a scheduled hearing date. At the hearing you will be able to demonstrate to the review board that the assessment of your property is inaccurate using the evidence you have previously collected. Please note that many counties require all documentation to be provided to the review board by the assessment appeal due date, meaning that additional documentation may not be sent later or presented at your hearing. That being said, some counties will allow an appraisal to be submitted within a specified time following the due date. For example, DuPage County allows residents to submit an appraisal by an Illinois State Licensed Appraiser within 10 days of the assessment appeal due date.
Appealing your taxes is a research project that requires attention to detail and a commitment to finding the best possible information about your property and comparable properties that is available. Therefore, many homeowners choose to use the experience and expertise of an attorney in this process. If you are considering using an attorney or another qualified individual to appeal your tax assessment on your behalf, remember to include in your appeal packet to the review board a letter authorizing that individual to act on your behalf in the matter.
O'Flaherty Law is happy to meet with you by phone or at our office locations in: