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How to appeal allegheny county property assessments

The assessed value of any Allegheny County property, commercial or residential, may be appealed annually by any interested party, including the owner, the school district or the municipality.

The deadline for any such assessment appeal is March 31, 2020.

If you have received any information suggesting that the assessed value of your residential or commercial property exceeds its fair market value, you should consider an appeal. For example, if recent sales in your neighborhood for similar properties are for prices below your assessed value, or if the rental income derived from a commercial property is declining, or if you know of any appraisal or other property valuation less than the amount of your assessment, please give Rachel Felton or Steven Petrikis a call at 412.918.1100. Both are experienced tax assessment attorneys, and both are also litigators who can vigorously advocate your appeal before either the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review (known as BPAAR) or the Allegheny County Board of Viewers.

At this time of year, do pay close attention to any mail received regarding your property assessment. School Districts frequently file assessment appeals in the month before the deadline. Often, the School District will file appeals when the recent sales price for a property exceeds the assessed value. While the sales price may be relevant evidence of a property’s fair market value, these cases can be successfully defended on a number of bases. If that letter comes, get in touch with your Metz Lewis relationship attorney or Rachel or Steve directly, and we can help you defend the School District’s appeal.

If you’ve purchased or inherited a property in this part of Pennsylvania, you have to pay property taxes on it. To do that, you should familiarize yourself with the way Allegheny County property tax assessments work.

DoNotPay provides information and will lend a hand not just with this issue but also with property tax exemptions for you or your senior family member. Our app will help you reduce and pay your property taxes and appeal previous assessments.

What Are Property Tax Assessments?

Local governments collect property taxes for funding various public and community projects. These taxes can be a significant annual expense for homeowners.

The assessed value of your property is the basis of property tax bills that keep coming. To get a better idea of the amount on your bills, you’ll need to understand how tax assessments work. It is a good way to plan your budget and dodge any negative surprises in the future.

How Is Your Property’s Value Determined?

All property tax assessments are done according to a set schedule. Local governments might organize it:

  • Every year
  • Every other year
  • When the property is transferred to a new owner

In some U.S. areas, the assessed value of a property equals its market value. Others determine the assessed value by multiplying the market value by an assessment rate.

You can reduce the assessed value of your property by receiving a homestead exemption that could lower your property tax bills. DoNotPay can help you increase your property tax homestead exemption .

What You Should Know About Allegheny County Property Tax Assessments

Allegheny County uses a base year methodology for property tax assessments. This methodology means that your property’s assessed value is not affected by changing market conditions. The base year methodology also allows similar assessed values for similar homes.

As the last county-wide reassessment was done in 2013, your property will be reassessed only in the following cases:

  • Errors or omissions
  • Physical changes, i.e., demolitions or constructions of any kind
  • Situations when a school district or municipality asks for an interim assessment on new buildings or significant improvements
  • Past assessment appeals

Homeowners or taxing bodies can appeal an assessment of the property annually.

If you’re thinking about making notable changes to your home, you should be aware you’ll need to apply for building permits . This may trigger the reassessment of your property’s value when you implement all the changes.

Most construction and building projects increase the value of your property and may lead to a higher property tax bill.

You can check information on your property using the Allegheny County property tax assessment search tool.

If you’re considering buying a property outside Pennsylvania, you should check out our list of states with low property taxes .

Allegheny County Annual Property Tax Calendar

Knowing the property tax schedule in your county might give you a better perspective on your tax obligations. Here’s how Allegheny County organizes its real estate tax calendar:

How to calculate Allegheny County property taxes. Appealing Allegheny County property taxes. Understanding Allegheny County property taxes. Allegheny County property tax errors. Allegheny County property tax appeals. My experience with Allegheny County property taxes. Allegheny County property tax errors. Allegheny County property assessment errors. Understanding Allegheny County property assessment. Appealing Allegheny County property assessment.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

South Allegheny County Assessment Comparison

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Understanding Your Property Review Document

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Interactive Map of Allegheny County Residential Property Sales, 2010 and 2011

2013 Reassessment Search

Here’s the link to the 2013 Allegheny County reassessment search site:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Allegheny County Assessment – My Property Tax Issues

  • The highest cost/sq ft tax
  • 7th highest cost/room
  • 5th smallest livable sq footage
  • 3rd fewest total rooms
  • 13th smallest lot size
  • Property sales price
  • Building permit history with amounts
  • Lot value calculation
  • Detailed dwelling description
  • Values assigned to many pieces of the house
  • Dwelling value computation
  • Home sketch and image
  • Total Room count was too high
  • Attic was shown as finished (it’s actually unfinished)
  • Showed an extra half bath (no half baths here)
  • Included a fireplace (nope, none)
  • Included an extra 1000 sq ft of space (ahh, no)
  • Garage was shown smaller than actual size (this affected my sq ft)
  • Home drawing was inaccurate

Get your “Residential Property Review Document” and maybe the $0.54 cents you spend can save you some major $$$.

Update 03/2011

After 2 months, I’ve finally received some positive news. I began calling the assessor weekly to get status updates. Each week, there was no information. Finally this week, I was told that the new assessment value had been signed off and I would be receiving a revised letter in the mail. My assessed value was reduced by 20%, right in line with where I expected it to be. All of the errors listed above were corrected. Once i receive my letter, I’ll be withdrawing my appeal.

When you get your new assessment for 2012, don’t rely on the county to be correct on all aspects of your home. Take the time to understand how the value was derived. You might be surprised at what you find.

Dealing with Municipal and School District Assessment Appeals

A few weeks ago (Policy Brief, Volume 14, Number 15) the Institute called attention to the Mt. Lebanon policy of appealing property tax assessments of homeowners who had recently purchased homes with sales prices far above the County’s latest assessment. The municipality’s appeals have engendered understandable anger among the folks affected. But Mt. Lebanon is not alone in challenging under assessed properties; several school districts in the region and state also pursue such efforts.

As the earlier Policy Brief noted, court decisions have upheld the right of taxing bodies—other than the assessing body, i.e., the county—to appeal assessments of properties for which the assessments are well below the market value, presumably as indicated by a recent sale. Indeed, in July 2008, Governor Rendell vetoed bills from both the House and Senate that were designed to end “spot” reassessments. The Governor argued that the need for taxing bodies to ensure fairness in taxation required that they be able to appeal county assessments that have not been adequately updated and accurate.

That being said, the court rulings should not mean municipalities and school boards can arbitrarily set their criteria for launching appeals. Nor does it absolve realtors from the responsibility of informing home buyers of the possibility of a municipal or school board assessment appeal and a substantial upward adjustment in their tax liability.

A recent news report enumerated the criteria used by Mt. Lebanon for appealing assessments as follows: (a) property must have sold for more than $100,000; (b) sales price must exceed assessed value (same as appraised value in Allegheny County) by $58,000 or more and; (c) the assessed value to sales price ratio must be 85 percent or less. Meanwhile, Pine-Richland school district uses the criteria that a successfully appealed value will bring in at least $1000 or more in tax revenue from the property.

These criteria for challenging assessments raise serious questions regarding fairness in the municipal or school district appeals of recently sold properties. For example, setting a minimal price to assessed value gap such as $58,000 and coupling that with the minimum 85 percent assessed value to sales price ratio has the potential to create clearly discriminatory outcomes.

Consider a home that sold in 2012 for $358,000 and is assessed by the County at $300,000. With an assessment ratio of 0.84, it would be subject to a municipal appeal. Now consider a home that sold for $590,000 and is assessed at $510,000. The $80,000 gap between sales price and assessed value would raise the red flag but the assessment to sales price ratio at 0.86 would be too high to place the property on the list of properties to be appealed. Assuming total millage (county, municipality, school) at roughly 30 mills that means the $358,000 home could be paying $1,740 more in real estate taxes (a near 20 percent increase) annually after a change in assessment while the $590,000 house is still underpaying by $2,400. How is that fair? And the comparison gets markedly worse for even higher sales price properties such as, say a million dollar sale with an assessed value of $860,000.

Or consider a home that sold for $155,000 and is assessed at $100,000. It does not meet the $58,000 requirement even though it is assessed at only 64 percent of market value. Its taxes would remain $1,650 (35 percent) below its fair share based on market value. How is this equitable when compared to a $250,000 home assessed at $190,000 that would be appealed and could lead to a tax hike of $1,800?

Finally, consider a home that sold for $356,000 and is assessed at $300,000. It would escape the municipal appeal by $2,000 even though, in any meaningful sense, the home has virtually the same market value as the $358,000 home that gets put through the appeal process.

Obviously, the criteria established by the municipality are arbitrary and can result in highly discriminatory treatment of properties. If the aim is to ensure fairness, the Mt. Lebanon plan fails in its objective. The criteria could be improved by using, say, a $40,000 price to assessed value gap or (not and) less than 85 percent ratio of assessed value to sales price ratio as the trigger. That would eliminate the very expensive homes, selling for a million dollars but assessed at $870,000, from escaping a municipal appeal. It would also prevent $155,000 sales price homes with $120,000 assessments (77 percent ratio of assessment to price) from escaping appeal. There would still be some opportunities for unfairness, but the range would be much smaller than the current criteria permit.

The problem is that once any numbers for the sales price–assessed value gap or percentage undervalued are chosen there will always be some sales gap or assessed ratio properties that lie just outside the criteria and escape the municipality appeal.

The Pine-Richland criteria outlined above in which any appeal that generates $1,000 in additional revenue for the school, which for the district and its 19.2 millage rate means any property with a sales price–assessed value gap of $52,000, will be assessed regardless of the assessed value to sales price ratio. Here again, the unfairness is obvious. Those with assessment to sales price gaps of $50,000 would escape the appeal and might well be grotesquely under assessed in percentage terms—say $130,000 assessed and $180,000 selling price.

All this is precipitated by the failure of the County (and many other Pennsylvania counties) to keep assessments up to date and accurate. This failure, along with the need and desire of other taxing bodies to make taxation within their jurisdiction as fair as possible, means the taxing jurisdiction must have the right and power to appeal assessments prepared by the county. The question is how is that need served in a non-discriminatory manner as required by the Constitution and ordinary ethical standards?

First of all, the Legislature should revisit the issue of taxing body appeals of assessments. Rather than trying to do away with the right to appeal completely as was attempted back in 2008, new legislation should establish methodologies for establishing the basis and criteria that municipalities and school districts can use to challenge assessments. There was an effort in 2012 to address this, but it was flawed and failed to pass the House. As was shown above, setting criteria that will insure that the properties being appealed are not singled out arbitrarily is not an easy task but one that must be addressed. Of course, the Legislature could all but eliminate the need for municipal appeals by passing assessment reforms that require counties to carry out frequent and regularly scheduled reassessments.

Moreover the Legislature should enact a provision (assuming one is not in existence) that would require realtors to make clear to persons buying properties priced well above the county’s appraised or assessed values that they could well see an appeal of the assessment by the municipality or school district. If buyers agree in writing to that stipulation the realtor is absolved of any liability or legal action should a successful appeal occur. It is interesting that realtors have not been sued already even without such a law.

Finally, the Legislature should mandate that 90 percent of any windfall revenue (after covering appeal expenses) stemming from assessments being raised through a municipal or school district appeal should be used to lower the millage rate to compensate for the higher revenue. Fairness should be the issue, not more revenue.

How to calculate Allegheny County property taxes. Appealing Allegheny County property taxes. Understanding Allegheny County property taxes. Allegheny County property tax errors. Allegheny County property tax appeals. My experience with Allegheny County property taxes. Allegheny County property tax errors. Allegheny County property assessment errors. Understanding Allegheny County property assessment. Appealing Allegheny County property assessment.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Allegheny County Assessment – My Property Tax Issues

  • The highest cost/sq ft tax
  • 7th highest cost/room
  • 5th smallest livable sq footage
  • 3rd fewest total rooms
  • 13th smallest lot size
  • Property sales price
  • Building permit history with amounts
  • Lot value calculation
  • Detailed dwelling description
  • Values assigned to many pieces of the house
  • Dwelling value computation
  • Home sketch and image
  • Total Room count was too high
  • Attic was shown as finished (it’s actually unfinished)
  • Showed an extra half bath (no half baths here)
  • Included a fireplace (nope, none)
  • Included an extra 1000 sq ft of space (ahh, no)
  • Garage was shown smaller than actual size (this affected my sq ft)
  • Home drawing was inaccurate

Get your “Residential Property Review Document” and maybe the $0.54 cents you spend can save you some major $$$.

Update 03/2011

After 2 months, I’ve finally received some positive news. I began calling the assessor weekly to get status updates. Each week, there was no information. Finally this week, I was told that the new assessment value had been signed off and I would be receiving a revised letter in the mail. My assessed value was reduced by 20%, right in line with where I expected it to be. All of the errors listed above were corrected. Once i receive my letter, I’ll be withdrawing my appeal.

When you get your new assessment for 2012, don’t rely on the county to be correct on all aspects of your home. Take the time to understand how the value was derived. You might be surprised at what you find.

It is very important that you use a skilled assessment appeal lawyer to represent you through the property assessment appeals process in Allegheny County. From the formal appeal at the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review to the Board of Viewers, an experienced real estate lawyer will maximize your chances for reducing your assessment and your property tax burden. Sometimes the school district files an appeal, and sometimes you need to appeal an unfair assessment. Kraemer, Manes & Associates LLC is ready to assist property owners at any point in the process. We will step in and fight aggressively to reduce the assessed value on your property.

Call or email today for a complimentary evaluation of your property: (412) 626-5626 or [email protected]

Tax savings chart

Winning an assessment appeal for your property in Allegheny County can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. The chart below shows estimated results for properties where we would be able to obtain a 10% reduction in the assessed value. The primary goal for our assessment appeal lawyers is to make your appeal cost-effective.

County Assessed Value 1-Year Tax Savings 5-Year Tax Savings
$150,000 $450 per year $2,250 over 5 years
$250,000 $750 per year $3,750 over 5 years
$350,000 $1,050 per year $5,250 over 5 years

Should you hire an assessment appeal lawyer?

As the chart above shows, you can save thousands of dollars in taxes if you handle your appeal in a smart way. The cost of an assessment appeal lawyer more than pays for itself if you are able to reduce your assessed value by a significant percentage, and the tax savings add up year after year. The county, municipality, and school district are all allowed to send their attorneys to oppose your appeal. Their job is to keep your assessment high or even raise it more. You should make sure you have a professional on your side to even the playing field.

If you need to file a new 2014 Allegheny County assessment appeal on your property

If your tax bill is going to be too high in 2014, we can help you from the very beginning of the process by initiating an appeal for the 2014 tax year.

If you have a formal hearing scheduled for an Allegheny County assessment appeal

If you received a Notice of Scheduled Assessment Appeal Hearing, it is time to begin serious preparation of the evidence for your appeal. If you don’t present the right evidence at the formal hearing, you will probably lose your case. The backbone of most cases we prepare involves an appraisal or a comparable report. Te best evidence to win a formal appeal includes these items:

  • a certified appraisal
  • a professionally-prepared comparable sales report
  • estimates for necessary maintenance and repairs
  • evidence of defects in the property condition
  • mistakes in the county property system

If you need to defend against a school district assessment appeal

Whenever a school district files an appeal of your property value, we always recommend retaining an attorney to prevent an increase. You can be sure that the school district will show up to the hearing with its attorney, so you need an experienced real estate attorney on your side to protect your interests.

If you have a commercial property to appeal the tax assessment of

There are some big differences between appeals for residential and commercial properties.

  • commercial values are usually calculated using an income/capitalization approach
  • certified commercial appraisals are substantially more expensive than residential appraisals
  • the county gives more scrutiny to commercial appeals
  • attorneys for school districts are much more likely to attend commercial hearings

If you need to appeal the disposition from the Board of Property Assessment Appeals

If you receive a Disposition of Appeal from Real Estate Assessment and are not satisfied with the result, you can file an appeal to the Board of Viewers. At KM&A, we promise at the outset of our representation to go through the second level of the appeal if necessary to make sure we get a good result for you. If you didn’t use a real estate attorney in your formal appeal, you should strongly consider retaining one to take your case to the Board of Viewers.

Paying real estate taxes is one of the unpleasant parts of owning real estate. No one enjoys it, but it can’t be avoided. That said, you can make sure you’re paying only your fair share of taxes. It is important to note that property owners can file an assessment appeal every year in their county, they are not limited to just the formal reassessment period.

Fair Market Values

In Western Pennsylvania, the amount you pay in real estate taxes is calculated on a base-year system. This means that once every so many years, county governments pay to have a company go out and place a fair market value, or real estate tax assessment, on each property. That fair market value, compared with the fair market values of the other properties in your area, is used to determine how much you will pay in school district, municipality and county real estate taxes.

None of the counties in Western Pennsylvania are required by law to determine new property values at any regular interval. That means that the old real estate tax assessments usually stay in place until someone challenges them.

Recent Assessment Challenges

In 2005, some homeowners brought a lawsuit alleging that Allegheny County’s 2002 base-year system was not fair. They thought their property values had dropped since 2002, while the values of properties around them had risen. If that was true, then the homeowners were paying more real estate taxes than they should be, while their neighbors were not paying enough.

The judge agreed with the homeowners and ordered Allegheny County to reassess all property and start calculating property taxes based on those values. After a legal and political circus, Allegheny County property owners faced a controversial property assessment in 2012. Allegheny County residents who are not happy with the assessed value of their property are eligible to file a formal appeal every year between January 1 and March 31.

A similar situation developed in Washington County, where the McGuffey and Washington school districts filed a successful suit to demand property reassessments. Washington County conducted a property assessment in 2016 with the new values being applied for the 2017 tax season. Washington County property residents are eligible to file a formal appeal every year with the deadline September 1 of that calendar year.

Beaver County is the latest to be forced to conduct a court-mandated property reassessment. The county commissioners have decided to hire Tyler Technology for a cost of $6.2 million to conduct the examination of Beaver County’s 96,000 parcels. The county has been using figures from a 1982 base year to evaluate property.

Tyler Technology was also the company that conducted the assessment projects in Allegheny and Washington counties. The project must be completed by June, 2022 for its property values to be in place for the 2023 tax year. Steidl & Steinberg will keep you updated on the developments in the Beaver County assessment project.

For information regarding county assessment appeals, give us a call at 412-391-8000.

Is Your Property Assessed Accurately?

Paying your fair share of property taxes based on the true value of your real estate sounds good. The problem comes when the county assesses your property for more than it is actually worth. Obviously, the companies hired by a county to perform the assessment could not go into each property and assign it a value based on its condition. The company calculated the property values based on recent sales of properties, general trends in real estate values, and aerial photos and maps of parcels. There are bound to be mistakes with this system.

Some of the mistakes are statistical. For instance, your county may have listed that your home has five bedrooms when it only has three. There is a good chance the county will assess a five-bedroom home at a higher amount than a three-bedroom home, meaning that you will pay more than your fair share of property taxes unless the mistake is corrected. Other assessments could be incorrect for no apparent reason. For instance, a homeowner that bought their home six months ago for $100,000.00 might be shocked to find their home is assessed at $150,000.00. What can you do when your county assessment department thinks your house is worth more than it really is?

That’s where the appeals process comes in, and Steidl & Steinberg can help. Each county has an appeals process to allow you to challenge the value assigned to your property. If you lose your appeal, it could end up costing you thousands of dollars in property taxes over the years. Don’t take that chance. Let the knowledgeable attorneys at Steidl & Steinberg handle your assessment appeal for you. We will navigate the process and make sure you have the right evidence to prove where the county went wrong.

Summary: In 2020, the Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review (BPAAR) heard 8,216 appeals of assessed values. Appeals had to be filed by March 31, 2020, roughly two weeks after the statewide stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus. As in previous years, most appeals were for residential properties and most were brought by governing bodies, particularly school districts.

The overall pre-appeal assessed value of the appeals heard by BPAAR was $3.975 billion. After appeals were heard the value was increased on 5,800 properties, decreased on 847 properties and stayed the same on 1,569 properties. The current total value of these parcels was $4.346 billion. This was a net increase of $371.0 million.

By property class, 7,275 appeals (89 percent) were for residential properties and 941 (11 percent) were for non-residential properties (mostly commercial but also industrial, agricultural, utilities and other). The result of residential appeals was a $355.4 million net increase in value from pre- to current total value and for non-residential a net increase of $15.6 million in value.

According to BPAAR rules, appeals can be brought by the owner of the property, taxing jurisdictions and any other person “whose direct pecuniary interests in the real estate would be affected by the assessment.” The data show that owners brought 1,966 appeals (23.9 percent), governing bodies 6,160 appeals (75 percent) and a combination of parties, 90 appeals (1.1 percent). There was an appeal in all but one municipality, whether brought by an owner, a governing body or a combination.

Results of 2020 Appeals

(Change in Value from Pre-Appeal to Current Total Value, $000s)

School districts brought the bulk of the appeals in the governing body group, 6,017 total, and 5,635 were on residential property. All but four of the 43 school districts in the county filed a governing body appeal. There were six municipalities that filed the remaining 143 governing body appeals. With a long period since the last reassessment, changes in market value as indicated by recent sales typically drive governing body appeals.

As noted in a Policy Brief last year (Vol. 20, No.41) there was plenty of discussion about owners of non-residential properties possibly appealing their assessed values due to the economic shutdown, employees working from home, curtailed activity, etc. For example, the County Controller’s Taxpayer Alert stated “a longer-term concern could be appeals to tax valuations of commercial properties which have lost tenants and earning potential during the pandemic.” As far as 2020 appeals, countywide the downward reductions approved by BPAAR were outpaced by the increases in values from governing body appeals. Whether that stands after appeals that went on to the Board of Viewers (BOV) remains to be seen. As do the results of 2021 appeals and those coming in subsequent years that could be related to the economic effect of the coronavirus. Countywide, taxable value rose $1.1 billion (1.3 percent) from $81.5 billion for the 2020 Assessment Roll to $82.6 billion for the 2021 Assessment Roll.

There were 536 appeals filed by owners of non-residential properties. This ranged from the property with the highest assessed value in Allegheny County, the Rivers Casino ($245.9 million) to a piece of vacant commercial land in Tarentum ($400).

Based on BPAAR’s decisions on these owner-initiated appeals, five properties saw an increase in assessed value, 384 saw no change in value and 147 were successful in reducing assessed value.

The 10 properties with the highest pre-appeal assessed values included regional shopping malls, office buildings and a hotel, along with the casino. In nine of the 10 cases, BPAAR made no change to the assessed value. All nine of those, including the casino, have proceeded on to the BOV for a decision.

A search of the use code on the county’s real estate website for the 147 properties that were granted a reduced value fell into one of 43 separate use codes. These included bank, department store, commercial garage and bar. The use codes with the most appeals, with 12 apiece, were small, detached retail, retail with apartments over top and office buildings with 1-2 stories. There were 58 municipalities with at least one downward appeal.

A nursing home had its value reduced by $8 million. That was the largest downward reduction (in dollars) last year. The properties rounding out the 10 largest reductions saw decreases from $3.2 million to $6.4 million from pre-appeal to current total value. These included hotels, office buildings and other nursing homes.

Non-residential appeals that are successful in reducing value will affect taxing bodies quite differently. While the county, the City of Pittsburgh and larger municipalities and school districts might be able to absorb a decrease in value, the same cannot be said for smaller governing bodies.

For example, the nursing home that won the $8 million reduction is located in Ross Township where other 2020 appeals resulted in a $14 million combined assessed value decrease. However, from 2020 to 2021 the municipality’s taxable value rose $10.4 million, which had to be the result of new construction or improvements and its millage rate remained the same as it has since 2013.

If the owner of a large non-residential property appeals an assessed value due to a downturn in business, loss of tenants, etc. and is successful, that means the adjusted assessed value will be in place for many years until the next reassessment is undertaken. It’s another reason we advocate for regular reassessments, preferably every three years. That would put Pennsylvania in the range of when most states require reassessments (see Policy Brief Vol. 18, No. 33). Unless there is a countywide reassessment, changes to property values year-to-year reflect new construction, improvements, demolition, corrections to records and appeals by property owners and taxing bodies.

Instead, the county is approaching a decade since the last reassessment went into effect. It is also facing a second lawsuit since 2017 related to appeals. This lawsuit—which involves eight individuals and one corporation owning a total of 13 parcels with an ongoing or upcoming appeal—alleges that the county’s coding of sales used to calculate the common level ratio (CLR) is flawed and the result has been “to artificially increase, or overstate, or inflate, the [ratio].”

The lawsuit cites sales data from the Federal Reserve that shows “sales prices for housing have increased by 29.47%” and that “one may reasonably expect all residential sale prices to have that same average amount of increase in sale prices from 2012 to 2019…the CLR for 2019, should have been about 77.23%, not 87.5%.”

It seeks the hiring of a chief assessment officer to resubmit data for the 2019 and 2020 CLR (81.1 percent), reform its assessment practices in regards to those who are recent buyers who can end up paying more than similar properties and for BPAAR to hold off on issuing decisions until the CLR is correct.

A predictable reassessment cycle would go a long way in not only restoring fairness to the property assessment process but in minimizing what could be a significant coronavirus-fueled uptick in appeals not only in Allegheny County but in other counties in the state with even older base-year assessments.

Eric Davis on Allegheny County’s Property Assessment Appeals

As we make our way out of a very mild winter and into spring, I know most of us probably have things on our minds other than taxes, but I wanted to reach out to you to offer help and guidance for dealing with the recent county-wide property tax assessment. Below is a picture from happier, less taxing times.

My mind on millage and my millage on my mind

If your recent property tax assessment is higher than you expected, you should consider calling us for a free consultation about how to best appeal your property tax reassessment. We can explain to you how the process works, help you to determine whether it makes sense to file an appeal and decide whether it makes sense for you to spend money on getting an appraisal or hiring an attorney to represent you through the process.

I was shocked when I received my property tax assessment paperwork in the mail. I purchased my home in Highland Park for $148,500 in 2002. My current assessed value is $169,100 ($154,100 with the Homestead Exemption). The new assessment is $265,900!

Your assessed value directly relates to the amount of property tax that you pay. Generally speaking, for every $10,000 in assessed value assigned to your property, you pay approximately $300 in annual property taxes. Even a moderate reduction in your assessed value could result in hundreds or even thousands of dollars in annual property tax savings.

We recognize that property taxes are necessary and pay for important services such as our schools, parks, roads, etc. However, there is no reason to pay more than your fair share. If your new assessed value is in excess of what your house is worth, we recommend requesting a FORMAL HEARING by filing this form http://www.alleghenycounty.us/opa/2013NewAppealForm.pdf before April 2, 2012.

To confirm that your appeal form was received, contact the Office of Property Assessments Public Information Line at 412.350.4600 or visit http://www2.county.allegheny.pa.us/RealEstate/Default.aspx and search your particular property. While on the website, it is also a good time to confirm that you are receiving the $15,000 Homestead Exemption. Everyone should seek this exemption for their primary residence. If you have any questions about the Homestead Exemption, please feel free to ask us.

You can represent yourself at the formal hearing or have our firm represent you for a fixed cost of $350. To be best prepared for the hearing, it is important to bring evidence regarding what your property is worth. We recommend getting an appraisal done by a certified appraisal service. In my opinion, this is the best evidence as to a home’s value. We can recommend a few appraisers that have a relationship with our firm. Most charge approximately $350 for single-family homes and $450 for duplexes and multi-unit properties.

If you are not satisfied with the Board’s decision after the formal hearing, you have the right to file an appeal with the Court of Common Pleas. You should definitely consider hiring an attorney to assist you with an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas. Our law firm has significant experience litigating property tax assessment appeals in Allegheny County. The cost for an appeal is fixed at $500.

I hope you found this blog post helpful. If you could use some help figuring out what to do about your property tax assessment, do not hesitate to call me at 412.434.4911 ext. 11 for a no cost, no obligation consultation.

Every year, property owners in Pennsylvania are permitted to file a real estate Property Tax Assessment appeal. A successful assessment appeal for your property can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Below is a list of the six most common and costly mistakes property owners make during the tax assessment appeal process.

1. Property Owner Ignores the Appeal Notice. Many property owners still ignore Property Tax Assessment appeal notices and hearing dates for assessment appeals filed by the school districts and other taxing entities. Failing to appear at a scheduled hearing will result in a forfeiture of the property owner’s defense. Moreover, a property owner’s failure to attend a hearing for an assessment appeal filed by himself/herself without a timely request for postponement results in the appeal being withdrawn and forfeiture of any further right to appeal for that tax year. All appeals should be defended vigorously.

2. Property Owner Appears in Person at the Hearing. Appearing at an assessment appeal hearing without representation can be extremely risky. If the property owner appears, he/she can be cross-examined by the taxing authority/authorities defending or bringing the appeal, and his/her testimony can, and likely will, be used against them. For example, taxing authorities will often ask property owners about any improvements to their property, any appraisals in their possession, and/or other information that may result in an increased assessed value.

3. Property Owner Focuses on Comparing “Assessments”. Although it may seem logical to compare the “assessment” of your property with those of your neighbors, real estate in Pennsylvania is valued according to its “actual value” and a bonafide rate and price for which the property would separately sell in the marketplace. Thus, comparable sales data, rather than surrounding assessments, should be the primary evidence presented at the hearing. While a lack of uniformity argument is relevant, it generally is not sufficient on its own.

4. Property Owner Makes the Appeal Process Too Complicated. Less can be more, and in the case of Property Tax Assessment appeals, presenting limited, more focused evidence of your proposed assessment is generally more successful than presenting piles of irrelevant, or less significant information. Each case is truly unique, and depending on the solicitor, taxing authority or hearing officer involved, it can be (and often times is) best to simply focus on your strongest valuation method (i.e., comparable sales). Other information, such as property condition and necessary repairs, is relevant, but it should be succinct when presented. An efficient, organized case typically increases the odds of a successful appeal.

5. Property Owner Loses at BPAAR and Does Not Appeal to BOV. Tax assessment appeals have two levels. The first level, or the informal appeal, is heard by the Board of Property Assessments, Appeals and Review (BPAAR). The second level, or formal appeal, is heard by the Board of Viewers (BOV). If a property owner is unsuccessful at the BPAAR level, he/she has 30 days to appeal de novo (fresh or new) to the county BOV. The BOV level offers a new process with new rules and often greater opportunity for success. Property owners who lose at the BPAAR level should not waive their right to appeal to the BOV.

6. Property Owner Tries to Represent Himself/Herself. The single biggest mistake property owners make regarding their assessment appeals is attempting to represent themselves. Typically, there is too much money at stake, usually for multiple years, not to hire a competent attorney to handle your appeal. Representation in assessment appeals is affordable, and the cost is generally well worth the potential savings in property taxes.

I got one last year, and the school board people never showed, so it was ruled in my favor. So of course this year I get another one.

Whose job is it to look for recently sold property at a much higher price than the assessment?

Usually somebody in the school district's finance department, who has many other job duties but that is just one of them.

They do sometimes have an employee dedicated to going to the appeal hearings downtown, though.

This job must be really easy, right? There is already a publicly available database of home sales across the county.

What are the arguments for not updating these values to match the actual market value?

The article says most of these were on commercial properties, but didn't offer a %.

The easiest one is that your neighbors, in similar houses, could be paying half as much property tax as you are.

The only argument is that the other property assessments are not also being appealed at the same time. Any new homeowner who is surprised by this is just uninformed.

If you're a county politician, deciding to automatically boost tax assessments to market value would result in large widespread tax increases, and the end of your political career.

As it is, those politicians need to get sued and dragged into court just to be made to order routine and independent reassessments of property values every 10-15 years — the appraisals for which are expensive, besides.

The strongest argument is residential.

Assess the value high enough and you literally tax a family out of their home. I'm surprised no one has brought it up, but this is one of the tools of gentrification.

This is really a shittty move. No better way to get your residents to hate you and write mean reviews of your school on google.

If you pay twice the assessment for your house, why would you ever expect it to not be taxed at what you paid for it?

There was a giant crybaby here a few years back who flipped his lid because he paid $250K for a house in Regent Square and the assessment went up to match what he paid. What did he think was going to happen?

I don't think it's a shitty move. Why should school districts forego tax revenue that is rightfully theirs?

I am completely baffled as to how either the assessment and appeals processes are remotely constitutional. Some of the base year appraisals are completely arbitrary and the appeals are based upon whether or not a house is sold.

I don't think any sane person would argue that people shouldn't be taxed on their property at a rate relative to what it's actually worth. The part that irks me is the opportunism from the school district to jump on recently sold homes, because they will almost always have an increase in sales price.

A question I have is how frequently are homes reassessed that haven't changed owners in long periods of time? It would seem fair that all homes are equally subject to reassessment and increases in taxation.

If you think your assessment is wrong, I suggest you file both an informal hearing and formal appeal.

How to appeal allegheny county property assessments

My expectations for any resolution on my were pretty low when I entered the county building on Forbes shortly before noon Monday.

But by the time I left my informal hearing about 15 minutes later, those low expectations turned into total bewilderment about what would be happening next.

Living in a townhouse community, I figured should be practically identical. But after receiving a number that was 5 percent higher than a neighbor three doors down, it seemed like a no-brainer to appeal.

Find out what's happening in Chartiers Valley with free, real-time updates from Patch.

I presented my information, photos and four comparables to one of the many real estate agents hired to listen to our complaints. While she thumbed through my comparables, I asked her why the county didn’t just hire them to do the assessment in the first place. She said many realtors are asking themselves that same question.

After reviewing all of my “evidence” and tapping at her keyboard for a few minutes, she handed back my information and told me I should get them scanned at a room down the hall. That took a few more minutes and the process was completed.

Find out what's happening in Chartiers Valley with free, real-time updates from Patch.

So what does that means to my assessment? Who knows? The realtor told me she couldn’t wave a magic wand to fix the potential errors. In other words, she couldn’t perform magic on this entire debacle.

That’s funny, because I’m pretty sure the company that conducted the reassessment, Cole Layer Trumble, pulled their numbers out of thin air and made them magically appear in our mailboxes.

The realtor told me someone will review my files and make a recommendation about my grievances. I have no clue what that meant, so I grabbed a 2013 Formal Appeal, filled it out and handed it over to the county’s assessment office. They’re supposed to contact me to schedule the formal hearing when I’ll present my evidence and argue that the assessment got it wrong.

I’m not really sure what argument will work because no part of this process has made any sense.

Regardless, if you think your assessment is wrong, I would strongly suggest you file both an informal hearing and formal appeal. Your tax bill depends on that.

Do you plan to challenge your assessment? Why do disagree with your assessment and what advice do you have for others who are unhappy with their numbers?

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Confused homeowners packed a meeting designed to answer questions about the Allegheny County property assessments.

“The people who listened to Fitzgerald and threw their assessments away – what do they do now?” a man asked.

It was just one of the questions at a community meeting in Homewood since a judge said the new 2012 assessment numbers must be used and the county executive said he was throwing those numbers out.

But there is plenty concerned about the 2012 numbers.

Renee Donahue bought the land next to her home in Point Breeze where she now parks for $2,500. The new assessment values that land at $34,000.

“Now, the bank is not going to give me $34,000 if I wanted a loan on that and they’re not going to give me $201,000 for my house that originally was $64,000,” she said.

Many wonder whether there was any onsite inspection.

“If you are buying a horse, you go out and look at that horse – you check the flanks, you check the height, you check the mouth, you check the hoofs,” Guy Calhoun said. “Nobody has come out and checked my horse.”

At a similar meeting in Squirrel hill, Councilman Corey O’Connor told property owners to fill out formal appeals although the informal appeals have been suspended for now.

“But if you at least file the formal complaint, you’re in that process in case we get a bad court ruling,” he said.

Bottom line is most answers won’t come until Tuesday’s hearing with Judge R. Stanton Wettick.

According to the Allegheny County Office of Property Assessments, formal appeals must be filed on or before March 31st.

Property assessments in Allegheny County have been in the news for many years. While many property owners had their assessments reduced through appeals after the 2012 Countywide reassessment, there still may be opportunities for commercial or residential owners to obtain assessment relief.

Foremost, owners should determine if their property has actually decreased in value over the past several years. Buildings may age and need repairs or may be in area that is not in a “hot spot” relative to the rest of the County. For commercial parcels, increased vacancies or rent reductions caused by market conditions can lessen a parcel’s value.

Also keep in mind that in Allegheny County, as in every other county in Pennsylvania, assessments are subject to the “common level ratio.” Very roughly speaking, this ratio is like a deflation factor so that owners do not face assessments increases merely because the costs of living has risen.

For 2018 the ratio in Allegheny County is 87.4%. That means that if you have a house that has a fair market value of $100,000, for assessment purposes, the property should be taxed at $87,400. As a result, even if a property has remained the same in value or has undergone small increases over the past few years, taxpayers still may be eligible to achieve a small reduction.

Assessment reductions are usually proven through recent sales of comparable properties, or if the parcel produces income, through the property’s income and expense statements. The owners should use common business sense in considering whether to file an appeal. If properties in their area are selling for $1.5 million and their assessment is $1 million, careful consideration should be made before filing an assessment appeal.

The people hearing your tax appeal at the Board of Property Assessment (the first stage of the assessment process in Allegheny County), or at the Board of Viewers (the second stage) are very knowledgeable about local real estate. But if sound reasons exist, opportunities should be pursued and retention of legal counsel knowledgeable about Allegheny County tax appeal law and practice should be considered.

For further information contact Tucker Arensberg attorneys John Vogel (412) 594-5622 or Gavin Robb (412) 594-5654 or Chris Voltz (412) 594-5580.

In Allegheny County, tax appeal season has begun for 2021. Every year, County property owners have the opportunity to file an assessment appeal, and as always, an appeal may provide an opportunity for a reduction in your taxes. In particular, those whose properties have been impacted by COVID-19, particularly through closures or lost property rentals may wish to consider an appeal this year.

Initially, owners should determine if their property has actually decreased in value. Home sales were strong in 2020 and non-retail business properties, especially in the suburbs showed some stability. But consideration should be made of general value trends outside of COVID, whether over the past several years or suddenly in the last several months. Even without the pandemic, buildings may need renovation. Your home or business property may be in areas that are not “hot spots” relative to the rest of the County. For commercial parcels, increased vacancies or rent reductions caused by market conditions can lessen a parcel’s value. Of course, if your business properties have been hurt because of the pandemic, justification for an assessment decrease may exist if the property produces less income.

Also keep in mind that in Allegheny County, as in every other county in Pennsylvania, assessments are subject to the “common level ratio.” Very roughly speaking, this ratio is like a deflation factor so that owners do not face assessment increases merely because the cost of living has risen.

For 2021 the ratio in Allegheny County is 87.5%. That means that if you have a property that has a fair market value of $100,000, for assessment purposes, the property should be taxed at $87,500. As a result, even if a property has remained the same in value or has undergone marginal value increases over the past few years, taxpayers still may be eligible to achieve an assessment reduction.

Assessment reductions are usually proven through recent sales of comparable properties, or if the parcel produces income, through the property’s income and expense statements. Owners should use common business sense in considering whether to file an appeal. If properties in your area are selling for $1.5 million and your assessment is $1 million, careful consideration should be made before filing an assessment appeal.

The officials hearing your tax appeal at the Board of Property Assessment (the first stage of the assessment process in Allegheny County), or at the Board of Viewers (the second stage) are very knowledgeable about local real estate. But if sound reasons exist, opportunities should be pursued and retention of legal counsel knowledgeable about Allegheny County tax appeal law and practice should be considered. The appeal deadline is March 31, 2021.

For further information contact Tucker Arensberg attorneys John Vogel at (412) 594-5622, Gavin Robb at (412) 594-5654, Katie Janocsko (412) 594-5564, or Chris Voltz at (412) 594-5580.

We have all been there—just when you thought all the bills were paid and everything was up to date, a bill labeled Property Tax arrives out of nowhere, and your finances take a huge hit. Here is what you need to know about a property tax assessment and what you can do about it .

What Is a Property Tax Assessment?

A property tax assessment looks at your property and tries to put a fair value on it so that your local authorities can tax you accordingly . The types of property that are subject to property tax include:

  • Homes
  • Farms
  • Business premises
  • Non-removable building fixtures

The revenue your local administration receives from property tax is important, generally being used to fund public amenities such as local police, fire services, street lighting, or civic cleaning and maintenance.

How Does Property Tax Assessment Work?

Each state appoints several assessors who carry out regular appraisals of property values and record the results .

The assessment aims to determine a fair market value for each property and generally uses one of these methods:

Sales comparison approach

There are other factors that influence your assessed property value, such as:

  • Access to public services (sewer, water, electricity, and similar)
  • Development potential
  • Recent renovation or improvements carried out

Once the assessor has determined a fair value for the property, the value is multiplied by the state or local tax rate to arrive at your tax bill. This rate is called the Mill Rate and varies from state to state. In some of them, the tax rate is lower than in others.

How Can I Lower My Property Tax Assessment?

Property tax assessments take into account the current value of your property, so any recent improvements you have made will be reflected in the next assessment.

You should check your tax bill for any inaccuracies and be present when your property assessment is made.

The most successful ways of reducing your property tax bill are these two :

  1. Looking for property tax exemptions
  2. Appealing your tax assessment

Looking for Property Tax Exemptions

If you fall into certain categories, you may be eligible for property tax credits or even a full exemption. We will look at the applicable categories below.

Appealing Your Tax Assessment

As a last resort, you can appeal your property tax assessment. This process varies from state to state, but the principles remain the same. The appeals process is explained below.

What Are the Typical Property Tax Exemptions?

Most states use similar exemption criteria to qualify for a tax credit or exemption that can reduce your tax bill:

  1. Senior tax credit
  2. Income-based tax credit
  3. Homestead tax credit
  4. Renters’ tax credit
  5. Veterans’ tax exemption

Senior Tax Credit

Homeowners over 65 who use the property as their main residence may qualify for a senior citizens’ credit on their property tax

Income-Based Tax Credit

Property tax is not designed to overburden taxpayers, so credits are widely available if your tax bill exceeds a certain proportion of your income.

Homestead Tax Credit

If your latest assessment represents a significant increase compared to the previous one, you may be eligible for homestead tax credit . This limits the amount your tax bill can increase each year to 10% or less, meaning that your new assessment is phased in over time rather than being applied in one go.

Renters’ Tax Credit

If you rent a property, many states consider that you are already de facto paying property tax through your monthly rental payments. In this case, you may be able to apply for renters’ tax credit and reduce your property tax liability.

Veterans’ Tax Exemption

In many states, veterans with 100% disability and some veterans’ spouses may qualify for full veterans’ property tax exemption .

DoNotPay Helps You Reduce Your Property Tax Bill

Property tax may seem confusing and arbitrary, but DoNotPay can help you . Follow DoNotPay’s guidance, and we can help you solve your property assessment problems and reduce your tax bill.

Our app has a powerful property tax tool that gives you a customized recommendation on what you can do to reduce your property tax bill. The guide comes with two sections:

  • Information about your local property tax exemptions that may apply to you
  • A list of documents you must fill in and submit
  • Instructions for the submission process
  • How to deal with a property assessor
  • How to appeal against an assessment

How Do I Get DoNotPay’s Property Tax Guide?

Our guide is simple to get—all you need to do is simply follow these three steps:

  1. Go to DoNotPay in any web browser , sign up, and find the Property Tax feature
  2. Answer the questions about yourself and your property
  3. Wait for the app to give you a customized guide to property tax reductions

How to appeal allegheny county property assessments

Can I Appeal Property Assessments?

All states have an assessment appeals process, but it should only be used as a last resort.

An appeal against your property assessment can be a daunting process, and you may be tempted to avoid it altogether.

DoNotPay can help! With our dedicated service for lodging a property tax assessment appeal, you will find all the information you need for your area to get your property tax assessment reduced.

Explore the Full Range of DoNotPay’s Services

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DMV offices don’t have to be the place where hope goes to die. With DoNotPay, you will be able to schedule any DMV appointment without the nightmare of waiting in lines. While you’re at it, you can check out our guides and practice tests for the best driving exam preparation !

Pennsylvania property owners always have the opportunity to try to reduce their property tax bills by filing an annual tax assessment appeal. In 2022, property owners in Allegheny County and certain other counties who file appeals may have a greater likelihood of seeing reductions.

New real estate valuation data released by the Pennsylvania State Tax Equalization Board (“STEB”) gives an edge to property owners in certain counties who file a 2022 appeal. STEB annually issues real estate valuation data for each county, known as Common Level Ratios, based on the prior year sales data. Common Level Ratios describe the difference between the market values of real property and the current county assessed values. They are used in certain situations to identify the taxable value of real property.

On July 17, 2021, STEB published new data that showed the Common Level Ratio for Allegheny County properties decreased from 87.7% to 81.3%. This means that if you have an Allegheny County property with a fair market value of $100,000, the property’s assessment value after July 1, 2021 would be $81,300, as opposed to the prior year’s assessment value of $87,700. This reduction can result in tax savings for property owners.

In order to take advantage of this new data, property owners would have to file a tax assessment appeal and offer evidence to prove the 2022 fair market value of their property . The Allegheny County deadline to file is March 31, 2022.

While the availability of a reduced Common Level Ratio gives Allegheny County property owners an advantage, it alone may not be reason enough to file an appeal. There are many relevant facts to consider when deciding whether to file. Our real estate attorneys can help you evaluate your case and answer questions about tax assessment appeals in Allegheny and other surrounding counties. Contact us online or call (412) 338-1148.

Third Floor, Grant Building
310 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone: (412) 338-1100
Fax: (412) 281-7304

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Some homeowners lined up in the county assessment office Thursday to seek an informal review while others like attorney Lloyd Welling filed for formal appeals.

“Mine personally tripled from my last year’s assessment,” he said. “I’ve had clients call me today that theirs has gone up five to six times last year’s assessment.”

Attorneys who fight assessments for a living say if you have any misgivings about your assessment, immediately file for the informal review process.

“The informal review process is a chance to meet with a county assessor and to look into the evidence used by that assessor in coming upon the assessment,” Elizabeth Chiappetta with Robert Peirce & Associates said.

It also gives you a chance to bring with you to the hearing room evidence in your favor such as the number of bathrooms, fireplaces, central heat and air, the slope of your land and proof of the condition of your home such as damage. Take pictures.

You’ll find out by mail if you got the assessment cut.

“Either side is then allowed to appeal if they are unsatisfied with what was determined at that informal review,” Chiappetta said.

Don’t wait for the result. Go ahead and file for a formal appeal. However, there’s something to keep in mind if you get that far.

“You’re also against the municipality of the City of Pittsburgh as well as the school district,” Chiappetta said.

And they’ll have attorneys there to protect their interest.

Meantime, keep an eye out for your tax bill.

“Unfortunately, while the appeal is pending you must pay the new tax bills under the new assessed rate,” Chiappetta explained.

You’ll then get a refund if you win.

When you’re in the hearing room, you’ll listen to the evidence they have on how they came up with your assessment. You’ll present your evidence. Then it goes to a review team. Their decision will come to you in the mail.

How to appeal allegheny county property assessments

Allegheny County’s Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review continues to hold hearings of tax appeals of the countywide reassessment figures, which are to be implemented for the first time in tax year 2013. In recent weeks, however, a number owners of real property in the City of Pittsburgh have received "Notice of Interim Assessments" that apply to the assessments that were used for tax year 2012. These interim changes were purportedly made at the behest of a taxing jurisdiction – either the Pittsburgh Public Schools or the City of Pittsburgh. Such interim assessments might follow new construction or major improvements – like building additions – if the work was completed in 2012. Most of these interim assessment changes we have seen indicate that the Office of Property Assessments has significantly raised the 2012 assessment retroactively, and for all of tax year 2012. This would result in an obligation on the property owner to pay additional taxes for tax year 2012.

There may be legal defenses to such an interim change notice that need to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. As such, we recommend that you contact us if you receive such a Notice of Interim Assessment.

In addition, the beginning of the new calendar year is historically a time when the Office of Property Assessments issues Assessment Change Notices. Property owners should be on the lookout for such change notices, particularly if there have been physical changes to the property in 2012, such as a subdivision or construction work under a building permit.

Note that a property owner has 30 days from the mailing date stated on the 2012 Notice of Interim Assessment or the 2013 Notice of Assessment Change to initiate a timely appeal.

The deadline for filing appeals of the countywide reassessment figures was April 2, 2012. Recently, however, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald proposed legislation to permit another deadline for the filing of appeals for tax year 2013. If Allegheny County Council approves this legislation, which appears likely, property owners will have another chance to appeal their reassessments. This new deadline is anticipated to be April 1, 2013.

Each year, Pennsylvania property owners and tenants have an opportunity to file a real estate tax assessment appeal. With the exception of Allegheny County, the annual appeal deadline for every county in Pennsylvania falls on different dates between August 1 and the first Monday in October. Allegheny County is the only exception – its tax appeal filing deadline is March 31 .

It is prudent for property owners to review real property assessments for accuracy every year. In Allegheny County, a convenient website exists to check a parcel’s current assessment: Typing in the property’s address or parcel number will lead to a page containing the “2014 Full Market Value,” which is the current assessment.

Ideally, this review should include more than just consideration of the property-owner’s opinion of what the property is worth, or what capitalizing last year’s rental income stream suggests an income-producing property is worth today. Below are some common and not-so-common issues that property owners should be familiar with when evaluating the fairness of their assessment. It is not an exhaustive list; rather, it offers some initial issues to consider that may lead to other questions that a property owner – or tenant with the responsibility for payment of these taxes – should answer when determining whether to file a tax assessment appeal.

Are there future events that impact value today?

Is there deferred maintenance or other capital expenditures on the horizon that would not be ignored by any prospective purchaser? Are there reasons to expect an increase in annual operating expenses, like a significant increase in flood insurance, that impact what someone would pay for the property? For rental properties, do you have significant tenants whose leases are coming to an end in the next few years, such that there is a question as to whether vacancy may increase significantly soon? These issues should be considered when determining a property’s current assessment.

Is the property worth more to the current owner than what it would be worth on the open market?

Under Pennsylvania assessment law, a property’s assessment is not to be based upon the value of the building to the particular current owner, but what it would sell for on the open market. Your building may be ideal for you, but you should consider whether it has features that would be less than ideal for most market participants. These could include characteristics like limited highway access and other factors related to location, or functional obsolescence caused by deficiencies or super-adequacies.

Is a distinction being made between income produced by the property and income from services?

Occasionally the line blurs between income attributable to rent, and income attributable to business activities or services rendered on or from the property. Income to the property owner realized as a result of the latter is not attributable to the real estate, and as such, must be excluded from an evaluation of the income generated by the real property. These distinctions can and should be drawn, so that only the real estate component of the income stream is considered when evaluating the real estate’s value. Pennsylvania real estate taxation is to be just that – a tax on real estate, and not on income that happens to be generated by services rendered on the property.

What are the economic realities of property ownership?

If a property is subject to a long-term lease, such that any hypothetical purchaser would consider the terms of the lease when evaluating the value of the property, the property’s value may be impacted. The assessment should reflect this market reality.

In the event you are interested in exploring whether filing a real estate tax assessment appeal may reduce this significant operating expense, please contact the Reed Smith attorney with whom you work, or one of this Client Alert’s authors.

Maddie Gioffre (right) and Shaquille Charles stand in front of their Wilkinsburg home on April 5, 2022. The two purchased the home in early 2020 and were promptly subjected to an assessment appeal. They are the lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the way Allegheny County calculates property assessments after appeals. (Photo by Lindsay Dill/PublicSource)

A lawsuit claiming that Allegheny County sends skewed data to the state, thus boosting thousands of property tax bills, is heading for a key hearing.

by Rich Lord, PublicSource

When Maddie Gioffre and Shaquille Charles bought a house in Wilkinsburg in 2020, they’d heard vague mentions that the property taxes could change.

They weren’t prepared, though, for a tax spike that would influence some of the fundamental decisions they face as a young couple. Nor did they expect to become the faces of a challenge to Allegheny County’s increasingly disparate property assessments.

“We were looking for a neighborhood that wasn’t super expensive but was still close to a lot of things in the city, easy commute for him to the med school, walking distance to Frick Park,” said Gioffre, a systems engineer.

They paid $205,000 for a house that needed some renovation. They have come to love Wilkinsburg, said Charles, a fourth-year medical student. But they also feel a little stung. “You buy a new home, and then you’re slapped with the tax,” he said.

School districts throughout the county monitor property sales. Where they find a sale price that is well above the “fair market value” that the county has assigned for tax assessment purposes, they file appeals in hopes of boosting the tax bill. In the case of Gioffre and Charles, an appeal filed last year resulted in a jump in their assigned fair market value, from $87,100 to $179,400. That added a total of around $5,000 to their school, borough and county tax bills.

So much for vacations. “We’ve even pushed back having children,” said Charles. “It’s maybe not because of the taxes only, but that’s a factor that plays into whether or not we can afford a child.”

The two ended up talking with Michael Suley, former manager of the county’s Office of Property Assessments. He told them how the county calculates the tax assessments emerging from appeals, and that he believed there was a flaw in the math. The couple agreed to join a lawsuit seeking to change the math and became the lead plaintiffs, joined by a handful of other couples, businesses and individuals.

A multi-day hearing in the lawsuit is set to start April 27. If the plaintiffs have their way, a judge would order the county to submit new data to a state agency that has a key role in calculating tax bills, potentially pushing thousands of tax bills down.

Meanwhile, Gioffre and Charles pay tax bills that are double those of their neighbors on one side, and triple those of the neighbors on the other. They are quick to note that they don’t want anyone else’s tax bills to soar – but they know other relatively recent homebuyers who have not been subjected to appeals. They would like to see a less arbitrary system.

“I’m all for making schools better. I think Wilkinsburg could use the funds,” said Gioffre. “But I don’t want to be the only one.”

I just received a letter from a law firm representing my local school district indicating that they are appealing the 2019 assessment for my house. From googling the appeal process, it seems that I can either directly attend the hearing and/or send legal representation.

Have any of you tried dealing with this yourself? Is it best to cough up the money to hire a lawyer? I’m mainly wondering if the price you pay is for the know-how of the process than the know-what of the subject matter.

Also if you do win, what prevents the school district from appealing again next year? Sounds like they could grind property owners down over time.

We hired legal representation because it was going to go up a large amount. Was well worth it. They did everything and got it down to a reasonable amount. I swear we only paid like 200 bucks. This was back in 2013

Yep. We did an addition 2 years ago, taxes were raised, we appealed with a lawyer and lost.

I went through this in 2017, the year after I bought my house. I did some research into whether it was necessary to hire a lawyer, and decided it wasn't worth the cost since I didn't have much of a case for arguing that my home was worth meaningfully less than I just paid.

I would recommend getting a lawyer if your assessment were being challenged for some reason other than a recent purchase, since there's more wiggle room to argue about market value when the house was last sold many years ago.

I showed up to the hearing (which entailed meeting with some administrator in a cubicle) with printed sale records for comparable houses that sold around 2012, the base year for property valuation in Allegheny county. A representative of my school district and their lawyer also showed with with their own set of comps, but these were all recent home sales for more than what I paid.

The administrator running the hearing asked some basic questions about when I bought my house, how much I paid, and whether I had a mortgage. I submitted my list of comps and a letter explaining why I thought the value of my property in 2012 was about $X based on the submitted comps. The school district representative submitted their list of comps and said they thought the value was $Y. We were both asked if there was any additional information that should be taken into account when determining the assessment value. It took about 15 minutes in total and there was no immediate decision rendered.

Ultimately, the reassessed value was about 80% what I paid for my house in 2016. I got a letter with this information about a month later. It's unclear to me how much the comps were taken into consideration when coming up with this value since my comps were all lower priced 2011 and 2012 sales and the school district comps were all higher priced 2016 and 2017 sales.

If you are unfamiliar with the base year system, it essentially means your 2019 property assessment is supposed to reflect the fair market value of your property as of January 1, 2012.

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How to appeal allegheny county property assessments

How to appeal allegheny county property assessments

How to appeal allegheny county property assessments

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Owners of real estate in Pennsylvania always have the opportunity to try to reduce their tax bill by filing an annual tax assessment appeal. In 2022, property owners in Allegheny County and certain other counties who file appeals may have a greater likelihood of seeing reductions.

New real estate valuation data released by the Pennsylvania State Tax Equalization Board (“STEB”) gives an edge to property owners in certain counties who file a 2022 appeal. STEB annually issues real estate valuation data for each county, known as “common level ratios,” based on the prior year sales data. Common level ratios describe the difference between the market values of real property and the current county assessed values. These common level ratios are used in certain situations to identify the taxable value of real property.

On July 17, 2021, STEB published new data that showed the Allegheny County common level ratio decreased from 87.7% to 81.3%. This means that if you have an Allegheny County property with a fair market value of $100,000, the property’s assessed value after July 1, 2021 would be $81,300, as opposed to the prior year’s value of $87,700. This reduction can result in tax savings for property owners. In order to take advantage of this new data, property owners would have to file a tax assessment appeal. The Allegheny County deadline to file is March 31, 2022.

Before filing an appeal, property owners should keep in mind there are many relevant facts to consider when deciding whether to file. While the availability of a reduced common level ratio gives Allegheny County property owners an advantage, it alone may not be reason enough to file an appeal. Our real estate attorneys can help you evaluate your case and answer questions about tax assessment appeals in Allegheny and other surrounding counties.

Property taxes in Philadelphia are unfair and, today, some homeowners pay too much while others do not pay their fair share. The current round of reassessments does not fix the system and is, therefore, nothing more than a back-door tax increase that is illegal, improper, and unjust. All property owners should appeal their assessments. No matter how undervalued your house is for tax purposes, SOMEONE is getting a better deal than you and that is not right. (As the graphic to the left illustrates, different neighborhoods effectively have different tax rates. you can click on the graphic to see a larger view.) To review appeal procedures, visit the BRT's website . Click "read more" below to learn how to craft a winning appeal.

1) Find the form "REAL ESTATE MARKET VALUE APPEAL FOR TAX YEAR 2008" which should have been mailed to you as part of the package of information that came with your reassessment.

2) Enter your name, telephone, address, and city, state & zip code.

3) Under "SELECT ONE OPTION" check the first box ("I will attend the public hearing. I request an oral hearing.")

4) Fill in the blank in the sentence "I believe that the market value of this property is $ _________." with the value you believe your property would be worth if you were to sell it today — be honest. the key to the appeal is that other properties (we will provide you with actual examples) are getting a better deal than you.

5) Check the box "Nonuniformity" to complete the sentence "I base my opinion on the following reason(s)" because you will be claiming that your property is not being treated the same as other properties.

6) Attach the following language to your appeal to demonstrate that you understand that all properties are to be treated uniformly, but that in Philadelphia the entire assessment system is fundamentally flawed. (feel free to cut and paste and print it out to attach to your appeal)

The Philadelphia Tax Reform Commission established that: "Philadelphia’s property assessments do not meet industry standards for accuracy; all across the city, assessed values diverge widely from market values. Philadelphia’s property assessments do not meet industry standards for equity; properties in poorer neighborhoods are, on average, assessed at a higher percentage of market value than properties in more affluent neighborhoods. The inaccuracy and regressive nature of Philadelphia’s assessments violate standards of vertical and horizontal equity."

In his recent ruling in Clifton vs. Allegheny County, Judge Stanton Wettick found that "Using income tax terminology, one out of every four Philadelphia property owners was in a tax bracket of at least 3.35% and one out of every four property owners was in a tax bracket that did not exceed 1.42%"

Understanding that current assessments are flawed, the Board of Revision of Taxes (BRT) has invested significant public funds in an effort to correct its valuation system. However, it is clear that the proposed reassessment does not provide for uniform taxation of my property.

The BRT explains the definition of “Market Value” on its web site — "A current economic definition agreed upon by agencies that regulate federal financial institutions in the United States is: The most probable price (in terms of money) which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller each acting prudently and knowledgeably, and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus."

If, by law, all properties are to be assessed uniformly, then all properties should share the same basic relationship between their current potential resale value and their “Market Value” for tax purposes. But that is not the case in Philadelphia today.

While my property would probably sell for [INSERT YOUR CURRENT HOME VALUE], my new assessment would increase my home’s Market Value to [INSERT YOUR NEW MARKET VALUE AS PER THE BRT], which would base my taxes on approximately [INSERT THE CORRECT PERCENTAGE] percent of its current value. However, other homes are valued for tax purposes at a significantly smaller percentage of current value including:

• 1935 Poplar Street, which sold recently for $315,000, but would have a BRT Market Value of $25,600 or only 8 percent of its recent sale price;
• 2339 St. Albans Street, which sold recently for $480,000, but would have a BRT Market Value of $49,600 or only 10 percent of its recent sale price; or
• 523 S. 41st Street, which sold recently for $525,000, but would have a BRT Market Value of $59,800 or only 11 percent of its recent sale price.

The Pennsylvania Constitution demands that “all taxes shall be uniform, upon the same class of subjects, within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax.” The city is in comprehensive violation of uniformity and the most-recent assessments do not correct the problems. The assessment lacks uniformity with other properties within the taxing jurisdiction and is therefore illegal, improper and unjust. My increase should be rescinded and the city should complete a comprehensive and fair reassessment of properties so that assessments meet industry standards for accuracy and equity and the Constitutional mandate of uniformity.

Philadelphia Forward developed this language for you attach to your appeal and we will be happy to stand with you before the Board of Revision of Taxes to help you make your case.