by Brendan Sample
As the Oct. 1 deadline for first-level appeals on Philadelphia property taxes fast approaches, many Chestnut Hill residents are still left wondering about how to go about appealing their home’s evaluation and what sort of strategy to take to get a successful appeal. While the results of appeals will certainly vary from case to case, those looking to go through the process will certainly want to make sure they have as much relevant information to present as they can.
This wave of residents seeking appeals on their property tax evaluations is a continuation from the city’s initial property reassessments, which were first reported in April. While the median tax bill increase across the city came to $165, Chestnut Hill and West Mt. Airy would see average annual increases between $500 and $1,752.
In order to get a property tax assessment reduced, homeowners will have to file an appeal to the Philadelphia Board of Revision of Taxes by the first Monday in October. During the appeal process, the burden will ultimately be on the applicant to prove a unique reason for why his or her property was misvalued.
In general, property tax increases are a result of assessors looking to keep up with housing market increases as opposed to simply looking to increase taxes, even though the changes are ultimately reflected through higher tax rates.
Because of this, mentioning previous assessments that already brought up the value or saying that you cannot afford the increased taxes will likely not be sufficient to get the new assessment revoked. Local zoning and land use attorney Carl Primavera suggested that anyone appealing their property evaluation should manage their expectations through the process.
“Homeowners may be asked if they’d sell their house at the new property value, and they may say they’d want to sell it for more, which would make the argument more difficult,” Primavera said. “I think people need to be realistic and understand that we’re in an up market. The good news is that their houses are usually worth more, and the bad news is that they’ll have to pay more in taxes.”
Additionally, for any property that is valued at over $1 million, the BRT will also want the applicant to provide an official appraisal of the property in question. As a formal opinion of value by a credentialed professional, an appraisal is typically the most effective way to determine a property’s value, as it will closely examine factors such as comparable sales, income, expenses and replacement value.
Primavera also recommended that applicants get in touch with a broker to determine how much their house would go for if it were on the market. If the proposed price is less than the new assessment, then that could strengthen the argument that the assessment is wrong. If it is lower, however, then it would be more difficult to argue against the assessor’s process.
While there may be plenty of unexpected details regarding this increase, it appears that City Council is working to provide greater relief for residential property taxes. In addition to creating a budget that did not increase the tax rate as Mayor Kenney had proposed earlier in the year, the Council has proposed measures in recent months that would alleviate property tax concerns, including potentially increasing homestead exemptions beyond $40,000.
“I do hope that there will be an overall tax policy for the city where people have a greater understanding and a more reliable way to look at taxes rather than seeing it as a surprise like this,” Primavera said. “Once people feel that it’s not unpredictable, they should be able to make better decisions. When people get surprised, they get angry, and that should be avoided.”
For full details on the appeal process, visit phila.gov/brt/appeals. Brendan Sample can be reached at email@example.com