Considering a real estate tax appeal? 6 steps to take after a revaluation

posted by Ronald Kowalski January 19, 2015

By statute, every Connecticut municipality is required to conduct a general revaluation at least once every five years. In a revaluation, the assessor determines the value of every parcel of real property in the municipality as of the October 1 revaluation date. Therefore, in the ordinary course, the assessment established on the revaluation date will be used to determine the taxes to be levied for the next five years. Obviously, taking an appeal immediately after a revaluation maximizes a property owner’s potential tax savings, although in some circumstances, an appeal later in the revaluation cycle is warranted.

The key issue in a property tax appeal is the property’s true value as of the “snapshot in time” on the October 1 revaluation date. Local assessors gather property-related data and information on an ongoing basis, but ramp up their efforts in the months leading up to a revaluation. In the late-fall of the revaluation year, assessors who are completing a revaluation will send notices to property owners. Once the notices are issued, there may be a chance to meet informally with the assessor or his representative to discuss the new assessed value; however, if a property owner wishes to challenge the assessment formally, a written appeal must be filed with the local Board of Assessment Appeals by the statutory deadline of February 20. By way of example, in a municipality with a revaluation on the October 1, 2014 Grand List, an appeal must be filed to the Board on or before February 20, 2015.

What steps should a property owner take when there has been a revaluation?

  1. Watch for notice from the municipality related to the revaluation. This notice usually contains information on the new assessed value, the opportunity to meet informally with the assessor or his representative and the deadline (February 20) to appeal to the local Board of Assessment Appeals.
  2. Review the notice carefully. Does it accurately identify your property? Do you own other parcels for which you did not receive notices? If the assessor’s new value is stated in the notice, do you believe that it reflects the property’s true fair market value as of October 1 revaluation date, based on market conditions and property-specific facts?
  3. If you believe the new value is too high, assemble information and documentation which supports your position. Recent appraisals, listings for sale and offers to purchase, sales of comparable properties, income and expense statements, leases and the like are all helpful in determining a property’s value. Of course, the closer in time it is to the October 1 revaluation date, the more relevant it will be.
  4. Confer with experienced legal counsel. In consultation with counsel, all matters related to the property’s value as of the revaluation date and appropriate legal and valuation grounds for an appeal will be discussed, and a go-forward strategy will be formulated.
  5. Decide whether to appeal to the Board of Assessment Appeals. Unless extended, a written appeal to the Board of Assessment Appeals must be filed by February 20, but an appeal should be prepared well in advance of the deadline. Except in unusual circumstances, you will lose the ability to challenge the assessment that year if a timely appeal to the Board is not filed.
  6. Once the Board issues its decision, decide whether to appeal to Superior Court. If a property owner remains dissatisfied with the Board’s decision, the only recourse is to Superior Court. A Court appeal must be filed within two months of the Board’s decision, or the right to appeal is lost.

Even if an assessment has decreased since the last revaluation, an excessive assessment will result in the property owner bearing a disproportionate share of the tax burden. Often, property owner mistakenly believes that his or her taxes will decrease because an assessment decreased in a revaluation. That is not necessarily true, because taxes are determined by multiplying an assessed value by the applicable mill rate. In general terms, if a given property’s assessment decreases in a revaluation, but by a smaller percentage than the overall decrease in the municipality’s grand list, the property owner should expect the taxes on that parcel to increase.

As with any contested administrative or Court proceeding, the decision as to whether to pursue a tax appeal should not be made lightly. A thoughtful, critical analysis of whether an appeal is warranted in the first instance is essential, and will usually result in a financial benefit to the property owner, whether an appeal is ultimately pursued or not. Once an appeal is underway, the property owner and counsel must work as a team to prepare a compelling presentation to the Board and if necessary, to the Court, utilizing fact and expert witnesses, and documentary evidence to establish that the municipality’s value is excessive, and that the taxpayer’s proposed value is correct.

Subscribe to receive our quarterly newsletter with law tips, case studies and firm news.