John Silvestri, Esq

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Understanding the Assessment Appeal Process

Appeals of Assessments are made to the Assessment Board by either a property owner or by a school district, city, boro, or township. In other words, if an owner believes a property is over-assessed, the owner may appeal the assessment to lower the assessment. If a school district, city, boro, or township believes a property is under-assessed, they may appeal the assessment to increase the assessment.

After a property tax assessment appeal is filed, the Board of Assessment schedules a hearing before a hearing officer. Notice of the hearing is mailed to the property owner, the property owner's representative, if any, and the school district and municipality in which the property is located. Regardless of who files the appeal, the property owner and the school district and municipality in which the property is located, have a right to present evidence and advocate an assessed value other than the value assigned by the county. Please note that before a hearing begins before the Board of Assessment hearing officer, the party who filed the appeal has an absolute right to withdraw the appeal.

Before a Board of Assessment hearing begins, the hearing officer gives the party who filed an appeal the choice of the property being valued as of the base year, or as of the year for which the appeal is filed. Where there is dramatic appreciation in an area, a school district will appeal a recent sale, to increase the assessment based on the purchase price. This procedure is the subject of legal controversy.

If an appeal is not scheduled for hearing in the year it is filed, then the hearing will include adjusting the value of the property for the next year when the hearing is scheduled.

After a hearing before a Board of Assessment hearing officer, the hearing officer's recommendation is reviewed by a case reviewer. Members of the Board of Assessment then review the recommendation, have the authority to change it, and vote on making a final decision. If the property owner or school district and municipality in which the property is located disagree with the Board of Assessment decision, any of those parties may appeal the Board of Assessment decision to the Court. Appeals filed to the Court may not be withdrawn without the permission of the Court after notice to all parties. A further appeal to the Common Pleas Court Board of Viewers level keeps open the assessment originally appealed and every subsequent annual assessed value until the Court decides the appeal by holding a hearing or approving a settlement.

Representation may be obtained at any time during the process. Before the Board of Assessment, non-lawyers are permitted to represent owners. However, there is no attorney-client privilege. Appraiser representatives are required to disclose all they know that affects the value of the property. Attorney representatives are required to not disclose information received from a client owner that is adverse to the client.