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December 13, 2009

Appealing a property assessment on an off-year

If you know that Maryland reassesses properties once every three years for purposes of taxation, you probably also know that property owners can appeal when they get the reassessment notice in the mail.

But did you know you can appeal on the off-years, too?

It's a "petition for review," and -- as you might imagine -- more people have been sending them into the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation since the housing bubble popped. Most people's homes are worth less now than they were a year or two ago, after all.

You can read about the off-cycle appeals in today's story. Here's the lowdown on how they work.

Deadline to file is Jan. 1 for the following July 1 tax bill. (One exception: If you buy a property in the first half of the year, you can petition to have the assessment reviewed for the tax year beginning that July -- just get your application in within 60 days of the purchase.) Instructions, including appeal form, can be found here. The completed form goes to your local assessment office.

You can ask for a hearing, or you can just ask the state to take another look. Joseph Glorioso, supervisor of assessments in Anne Arundel County, kindly let me take over his office for an hour so I could read a stack of petitions and get a feel for what they're like. Plenty of people simply assert that the assessed value is too high, thank you very much, and sign their name.

But some take the recommended step of offering supporting evidence. One homeowner included a long list of recent sales in his neighborhood and noted that asking prices were even lower than the sales prices.

Here's what the state suggests if you're going to appeal:

* Focus on those points that affect the value of your property.

* Indicate why the Total New Market Value does not reflect the market value of the property.

* Identify any mathematical errors on the worksheet or inaccurate information describing the characteristics of the property (such as the number of bathrooms, fireplaces, etc.).

* Provide examples of sales of comparable properties which support your findings as to the value of the property.

* Avoid the following issues since they are not relevant to the value under appeal: comparison to past values, percent of increase, additional metropolitan costs, the amount of the tax bill, properties in other taxing jurisdictions, and services rendered or not rendered.

The state's petition form includes a warning that an appeal could potentially end with an increased assessment. But Henry Sikorski, state supervisor of assessments, told me that the law doesn't allow that in cases of residential property, only for commercial. (The regulation is here, in case you'd like confirmation.)

Remember, if you don't get anywhere with your initial foray -- and you're sure you're right -- you can appeal the decision to the Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board, and from there to the Maryland Tax Court.

Have you ever put in a petition for review? How did it go?

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:45 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Property taxes


I would like to first say that if a person gets a break on the tax reassessment there should be a rule that that person MUST live in the house for atleast five years. I mean, come on folks. This market is totally screwed up and realtors, speculators and banks are the most to blame. This would prevent speculators with deep pockets from continuing to profit at the expense of us "normal" folks who can't afford even a foreclosure. If gov't wants to help out the economy, then it has to police the savy investors, banks and realtors who continue to prey on low to moderate income people out there. I am leaving this neck of the woods because I cannot find a decent $200,000 to $250,000 house that I would live in, yet allow my kids to attend a school in that area. Remember, you should only be able to afford 3-times your pay and banks and realtors continue to ply people into homes more than they can afford. This market is far from over and until we all wake up it won;t end for another 10 years or so. By then, I'll be living in an affordable home, in a nice sunny part of the country paying less than $1,000 in mortgage payments a month (oh, and this includes taxes and insurance). Fair well and good ridance to this over priced part of the country.

Just appealed an assessment as I found an error in the calculation. I had to attend a hearing to say why and prove why I felt that the assessment was wrong. I also had to state what I felt was the value of the home. I found out that the State assessed the property without anyone actually coming out to look. Someone made a math error and the assessment was much higher than it should have been. The State sent someone out to check and re-check - they admitted the mistake (they stated that there are no refunds if the error occurred in the past and the tax paid based on the error). A new assessment resulted in a large deduction. I would do it again if I found another error.

Forgot to add: When the State came out to look at the home, they measured and found out that they had added an additional 540 square feet. This also resulted in a greater deduction in the property tax.

Has anyone else ever noted the unfairness of the property tax? Income tax is based on income, sales tax based on what you buy. Property tax is based on some bureaucrat's made-up assessment. It is a tax that has nothing to do with the income and ability of the person who must pay it. If a neighbor sells his house for an inflated amount the other owners do not gain anything but see their taxes go up. More tax does not mean more service from the government. Many homeowners in Maryland could see a situation where the assessed value skyrocketed and they were forced to pay high taxes and then a few years later have the assessed value reduced and pay reduced taxes and have nothing about their home change. If an elderly couple who bought their home many years ago can't pay the tax on a ridiculously inflated assessed value its: "Gee, too bad."

Property taxes should not change unless the property is changed or is sold.

Though it has been a few months since this post originated, I feel that it is important to weigh in on comments posted by Harpo (12.13.09 16:03), specifically, "...Realtors who continue to prey on low to moderate income people out there."

To generalize against all Realtors based on the actions of a few is to do a great disservice to those of us who work diligently to champion for our clients and in this market, if you do not do just that, you will not remain an active Realtor very long.
Perhaps Harpo has had a bad experience in the past (which is indeed unfortunate) or maybe just scapegoating the profession because we're an easy target. Regardless it merits recognition that every member of the National Association of Realtors makes a commitment to adhere to a strict code of ethics. If you are interested to review our code simply click HERE

Are all Realtors perfect, of course not. Like any profession (teacher, doctor,lawyer, ect) individuals may act with varying degrees of judgement and decorum but to condemn an entire profession by the actions of a few speaks more loudly to your integrity than to the actual point of the matter.

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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
Baltimore Sun articles by Jamie

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