As a California property owner, you have the right to appeal the amount of your property taxes. You can use an attorney to represent you in your appeal, or you can do it yourself. Property taxes are assessed (and appealed) on a county-wide basis in California, so for those of us in Riverside, Banning/Beaumont and the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, etc.), our appeals are handled in Riverside County.
Am I really Challenging The Amount of My Taxes?
Actually no, what you are really challenging is the Riverside County Assessor's enrolled value of your property.
First of all, there is a chance (maybe unlikely) you can change your assessed value without even appealing. You can try contacting your Assessor and make the case informally. Absent a glaring mistake or omission by the Assessor, that's probably not going to work. So you can file an appeal with your local appeals board (for us in the Palm Springs area, this means the Appeals Board of Riverside County). Again, an attorney is not required, but property tax appeals frequently include legal issues, and attorneys are used to the appeals process (they do many of these), so it's not the worst idea. And by the way, the appeals process (with the Riverside Board) is going to take a while, in fact you can count on months (maybe 6 to 8 months until your hearing).
What Kind of Appeal Do You Want to File?
Decline in Value Appeal- Very common. You believe your property is no longer worth as much as the assessed value. If you are filing a decline in value appeal, you must file your appeal as follows:
If you received your assessment in the mail by August 1- you must file your appeal between July 2 and September 15.
If you did not receive your assessment in the mail by August 1 (you received it later)- you must file your appeal between July 2 and November 30.
Base Year Value Appeals- A little different than a decline in value appeal. Here, what you're auguring is that there should be a change in your property's "base year value", because (for example) a change in ownership of the property occurred, or perhaps there has been a change to the structure of the property (you added a garage). The concept of a base year value, of course, stems from California's Proposition 13. Under Proposition 13, once a base year value has been established (for example, when you buy a previously owned house, the property has now undergone a change in ownership, and a new base year value is established), the property value (for tax purposes) can only go up a small percentage each year. We'll speak more of Prop. 13 in detail in later blog posts.
Calamity Reassessment Appeal- A natural disaster has affected the value of your property (so a reassessment is required).
What Kind of Evidence Can You Present?
Obviously, most people will want to show evidence that their property is not worth what the assessor believes. The best evidence will be sales of houses which are comparable to yours (e.g., in your area, of like size, etc.). While the Appeals Board will consider this evidence, the only "comps" which generally count for their purposes are the sales that occurred between January 1 and March 30 of the year in question (sales prior to Jan 1 can be considered as well, but must be adjusted for elapsed time). You may wish to consider getting a formal appraisal (although evidence of three comparable sales of home sales in your area (within one mile radius of your home), of (generally) the same size and condition, will generally suffice.
For more information on the Riverside County Property Tax Assessment Appeals Process, give us a call.