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Real Estate/Tax Alert: Has the County Established a Value for Your Property That is Too High?

By Thomas A. Gattozzi & Terry W. Vincent on March 20, 2019

The deadline to challenge your property tax valuation is April 1, 2019.

Property values were just reappraised for several counties, including Cuyahoga, Erie, Huron, Lake, Lorain, Stark, Lucas, and Portage Counties. Property valuations are often inaccurate and too high. However, there are a few options available for real property owners in Ohio to decrease real estate tax valuations, which will lower property tax bills.

How Property Values are Determined

Real property is reappraised every six years through visual inspection by each county. Year 1, referred to as the reappraisal year, is when the county auditor views the properties and conducts a full reassessment of their values. In many smaller counties, the auditor's appraisal staff will drive around looking for changes made since the last assessment. Today, in most large counties, auditors depend more on aerial photography and drones to photograph properties. They use sophisticated computer programs to measure and document recent physical changes made to the properties. Once the auditor determines the reappraisal value, it generally stays in effect for the next two years of the tax cycle unless the property is sold, a casualty occurs to the property, or improvements are made to the property that increase its value. Year 4, referred to as the update year, is when county auditors make adjustments to property values based upon data gathered from sales that occurred in Years 2 and 3, with analysis provided by knowledgeable market participants like real estate brokers and investors, and economic reports. Values generally remain the same for Years 5 and 6, unless the property is sold, a casualty occurs, or improvements are made.

Challenging Your Property Values

If you disagree with the valuation of your Ohio real property, your first step should be to file a “Complaint Against Valuation” with the local county board of revision. Absent a sale, owners can usually only challenge a county auditor's valuation one time in each three-year cycle. This complaint must be filed by April 1st and this is a hard deadline for many counties. The complaint form, which asks 14 questions about your property, is used statewide. It can be downloaded from almost all county auditor websites as well as from the Ohio Department of Taxation's website. It is important to fill out the form carefully because incorrect information can result in the dismissal of a case.

The Complaint Process

Once the complaint is received, the Board of Revision will take two actions. First, a real property owner is seeking a decrease in property value of more than $50,000 the Board of Revision will notify the local school district (since school districts generally receive between 65-70 percent of property taxes collected, they are the government entity most affected). If the school district decides to become involved with the owner's case, its attorney will be allowed to cross-examine the owner's witnesses and to present its own evidence of the property's value.

Second, the Board of Revision will schedule a hearing. Usually hearings occur during the summer and fall months and last about 15 to 30 minutes. The county auditor, county treasurer and the president of the Board of County Commissioners (or members of their staffs) sit on the panel. The Board of Revision typically issues its decisions within four weeks after the hearing. If an owner is unhappy with the Board of Revision's decision, they may file an appeal with the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals or the Common Pleas Court for the county in which the property is located.

How Brouse McDowell Can Help

The Real Estate Practice Group at Brouse McDowell has the capability and experience to assist property owners in challenging their tax valuations, and in handling any appeals that may become necessary.

We provide our clients with legal counsel and practical guidance in navigating all stages of real estate transactions, including real estate tax contests and appeals. Please contact any of the attorneys listed below, or any other Firm attorney with whom you have a relationship, for more information and assistance.

Terry W. Vincent   |   216.830.6847   |   tvincent@brouse.com
James T. Dixon   |   216.830.6804   |   jdixon@brouse.com
Thomas A. Gattozzi   |   216.830.6831   |   tgattozzi@brouse.com
Edward F. Smith   |   330.550.8062   |   esmith@brouse.com
Irving B. Sugerman   |   330.434.7516   |   isugerman@brouse.com
Daniel K. Wright, II   |   216.830.7655   |   dwright@brouse.com
Christopher T. Teodosio   |   330.434.6927   |   cteodosio@brouse.com
Matthew G. Vansuch   |   330.533.6195   |   mvansuch@brouse.com
Shelby L. Ranier   |   330.434.7388   |   sranier@brouse.com
Hanne-Lore M. Gambrell   |   330.434.7118   |   hgambrell@brouse.com

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