Property Law For Dummies
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You always want your property to be worth as much as possible, right? Well, maybe not always. The one time that you want your property to be worth less, not more, is when the tax man or woman comes calling; property taxes are based on the value of your property.

You may complain that your property taxes are too high but deep down you value good community services like police, fire protection, and schools, and you’re willing to pay your fair share to support these services. But what if you’re paying an unfair share? What if you and your neighbor own homes of about the same value but pay different amounts of property taxes? It may be that your neighbor was a veteran or is a senior citizen and your community offers reductions for those situations. But if nothing like that exists, and you are paying substantially more than your neighbor, there are a few steps you can take to try and remedy the situation.

Remember, as you proceed along these steps, your argument is not that your taxes are too high. Your argument is that your assessed value (the value they base your taxes on) is too high relative to other similar properties in the community.

Check your property record

Go to the tax assessor’s office and check your property record. What you’re looking for is to make sure the information on the record is accurate, and you’re not paying taxes on a sunroom that was torn down before you bought your house, or an extra bathroom that never existed. People make mistakes, and assessors are usually willing to reinspect the property and correct those mistakes. If everything in the record is correct, go to the next step

Prepare to file a tax grievance

Find out what the procedure is for filing a tax grievance, check when the application is due, get the necessary forms, and get ready to file.

Gather information about your neighborhood

The argument that you need to make to the grievance board is that properties that are physically similar to yours in the same location are being assessed at a lower value than yours is. You need to gather information about recent sales, the physical makeup of the properties, and the location. Remember to focus on properties similar to yours; for example, if you have a three-bedroom, two-bath home on a half-acre lot, you need to get information on other three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes in your area that sit on half-acre lots.

File the tax grievance

Gather your research, fill out the forms, and file the grievance by the appropriate date. Be prepared to appear before the board to make your case.

Prepare to contest, if your grievance is denied

If you do not get relief or the full amount of reduced assessment that you applied for there may still be another step you can take short of going to court. Your state may offer a semi judicial option that permits you to file another grievance with some type of hearing officer who would be seen as more objective than town officials. It may cost you a small fee to file, but you’ve already done the research and have nothing to lose.

Everyone needs to pay a fair share, but not an unfair share.

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