TAXPAYERS’ RIGHTS AFTER PROPERTY IS REVALUED BY A MUNICIPALITY

By:  Eugene E. Cederbaum

State law in Connecticut now mandates that Towns and Cities conduct “revaluations” of both commercial and residential real property within its borders every five years.  A “revaluation” of property is conducted under the supervision of the municipality’s Assessor but the work is often conducted by appraisal firms hired by the town or city.  The revaluation contractor uses Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal  specialized software which develops statistical models to determine the market value of each property.   Thorough inspections of all properties are not often part of the revaluation process.  During the period between revaluations, property values may also be increased if improvements are made such as remodeling a kitchen or constructing an addition.

A taxpayer whose property value has been increased usually may question the accuracy of the increase informally at hearings conducted by the revaluation contractor.  Obvious mistakes, such as incorrectly listing the number of bedrooms or bathrooms or the acreage or topography of a lot may be resolved at these informal hearings.  If the informal hearing does not yield a satisfactory result, a property owner may appear before an elected municipal body known as the Board of Assessment Appeals.  Assessors’ valuations are effective on October 1st of each year.  BAA appeals must be filed in writing on or before February 20th of the following year.  Taxpayers will be notified of the date and time of their hearing.  Following the hearing, the BAA will notify the taxpayer in writing of its decision.  The BAA is authorized by law to increase or decrease the Assessor’s determination of value... or to make no change at all.

Property owners appearing before the BAA should come prepared with evidence to support his or her claim of overvaluation.  Values of “comparable” properties are only a starting point since the BAA may not have a basis for determining whether any particular property is truly comparable to the taxpayer's.  The amount paid by a taxpayer when purchasing the property is similarly not conclusive of its market value.  Objective evidence of errors in documentation of property characteristics is often more persuasive.  It is most effective to come to the BAA hearing with a written appraisal prepared by a professional real estate appraiser.  The appraiser should appear with the taxpayer at the BAA hearing and explain why the property has been overvalued.  Such evidence gives the BAA a solid basis for a reduction in value.  It is often wise to consult with an attorney prior to an appearance before a BAA.

Lastly, the law provides a taxpayer the right to have a court review the accuracy of the value as determined by the Assessor or if changed by the BAA.  Such actions are known as tax appeals and are heard by the Connecticut Superior Court.  In these proceedings, a taxpayer is required to make an initial showing that he or she has been “aggrieved” by the assessment.  Thereafter, the court may consider the evidence presented at trial (usually written appraisals supported by appraisers’ testimony) and reach an independent opinion of value. 

Taxpayers should consider the various steps outlined above if they believe the Assessor has overvalued their property.  Even though the assessed value remains the same (absent improvements) during the years between revaluations, a taxpayer may take an appeal each year from the value that become effective on October 1st. This is so even if no appeal was taken in a prior year. 

If you have any questions about this article, please contact me.

©  2009, Eugene E. Cederbaum

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