The much anticipated 2013 Allegheny County Property Assessments have now been released for the entire county, and many homeowners and commercial property owners have been surprised that their assessment may have increased by fifty percent (50%) or more. Below you will find a breakdown of some of the communities that have had the highest average property assessment increases, as well as what you can do to appeal your own property assessment.
Property assessments in Allegheny County increased an average of 35.4%. This figure includes all 130 municipalities throughout the county. Residential properties increased an average of 27.7%, while commercial properties increased a whopping 54.4%.
The 2013 reassessment was conducted because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered Allegheny County to reassess the values of properties after a group of homeowners instituted a lawsuit against the county. The homeowners contended that homes of higher value were being under-assessed, while homes of lower value were being prejudiced by being over-assessed. Before the court ordered 2013 reassessment, the last reassessment in Allegheny County was conducted in 2002.
Comparing the new assessed values of properties has left many scratching their heads as some communities with lower-value properties increased by a greater percentage than those with higher-value properties. Three municipalities in Allegheny County with some of the highest average increases in assessments were West Elizabeth (66.8%), Green Tree (52.6%), and Dormont (52%). Other notable municipalities include Upper St. Clair’s average increase of 21.8% and Bridgeville’s average increase of 42%.
How to Interpret Your Assessment
The average increase in assessments in your municipality and your school district is significant because if your specific assessment increased by more than the average in your municipality or school district, then you are likely to have an increase in your taxes for those taxing authorities starting in 2013. Conversely, if your increase is less than the average in your municipality or school district, then you may likely see a decrease in your taxes in 2013. The same applies for the average increase in Allegheny as a whole; although, in general, county real estate taxes tend to be significantly lower than municipal and school district taxes. The reason that the averages are so important is because pursuant to state anti-windfall laws the taxing authorities have to adjust their millage rates downward after a reassessment so that their overall tax collection remains revenue neutral.
For example, if you own property in Upper St. Clair, and your property’s assessment increased by 13%, then you are likely to see a decrease in your real estate taxes because the average increase in assessments in Upper St. Clair was 21.8% (which applies to both township and school district real estate taxes) and in Allegheny County it was 35%. Therefore, even if you are upset or shocked by the increase in the assessed value of your property, it may not be in your best interest to file a formal appeal if your increase is less than than the average increases in your municipality, school district and in Allegheny County.
What You Can Do About Your Assessment
There are two types of appeals that you may file.
Informal Appeal: a one-on-one meeting between a property owner and a representative of the Office of Property Assessments to review information on a property’s characteristics and 2013 court-ordered reassessment value. Representatives from municipalities and school districts are not present at informal reviews. Property owners may provide corrections to property characteristics and bring pictures and written documentation supporting a change in the 2013 court-ordered reassessment value.
* Informal reviews will be conducted on the third floor of the County Office Building located at 542 Forbes Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh and at remote sites throughout the county. Reviewers will only discuss information regarding your property characteristics and 2013 court-ordered reassessment value. They will not discuss taxes. You will be notified, in writing, of the results several weeks after the review.
Formal Appeal: A quasi-judicial hearing before the Board of Property Assessment Appeals & Review. The hearing provides property owners and/or the three taxing bodies (municipality, school district and county) an opportunity to challenge a property’s assessed value. Property owners, other interested parties, and the three taxing bodies may present evidence at the formal appeal hearing.
* You may obtain the 2013 Court-Ordered Reassessment Value Formal Appeal Form by downloading it on the Allegheny County Assessments page at http://www.alleghenycounty.us/opa/2013NewAppealForm.pdf by calling 412-350-4600. This form is also available onthe third floor of the County Office Building located at 542 Forbes Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh. The deadline for filing a formal appeal of your new 2013 court-ordered reassessment value is April 2, 2012.
You will be notified of the time, date and location of your formal appeal hearing. Representatives from your municipality and school district may or may not be present at your formal appeal hearing.
If all of the above seems a bit overwhelming, whether you are just too busy to do everything yourself or you just don’t completely understand all of the language, you can always look into retaining an attorney to help you along your journey to, hopefully, get your 2013 assessment reduced, thereby lowering your future real estate taxes.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation with Neighborhood Attorneys, LLC please call 724-884-0864 or visit us at our website: http://www.neighborhoodattys.com.