Notice of Tax Assessment Change – What Should You Do?

posted by Nicholas Vitti December 7, 2018

Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton, Weston and Bridgeport along with 40 other Connecticut municipalities are conducting a general revaluation on the October 1, 2018 Grand List. In a revaluation, the assessor determines the value of every parcel of real property in the municipality as of the October 1 revaluation date. Connecticut law requires municipalities to conduct a general revaluation at least once every five years. 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.

Municipalities conducting a revaluation on the October 1, 2018 Grand List include norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, wilton, weston, bridgeport and others.

The key issue in a property tax appeal is the property’s true value as of the October 1 revaluation date. 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.

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. If your municipality is conducting a general revaluation for the October 1, 2018 Grand List you will receive a notice of tax assessment change within the next month or so, if you have not already received such a notice. 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 February 20, 2019 statutory deadline.

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, 2018, 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, data close in time to the October 1, 2018 revaluation date will be most relevant.
  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. Often, factual errors or mistakes (incorrect square footage, for example) may be corrected during an informal meeting with the assessor's office or their representative. The formal appeal process, however, begins with filing a written appeal with the Board of Assessment Appeals. Unless extended, the deadline to do so is February 20, 2019 although an appeal should be prepared well in advance of the deadline. Except in unusual circumstances, you will lose the ability to challenge the October 1, 2018 assessment if you do not file a timely appeal to the Board.
  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.

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.

If you have a question about the revaluation process in your city or town, or about how to appeal the revaluation of your property, please give us a call.

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