Appealing Your Assessment
Every Connecticut town or city has an appeals process mandated by Law. The first step should be an informal meeting with someone in the assessor's office (or revaluation company during revaluation years). During this informal meeting, you should review the property file card (aka street card or field card) on your property to be sure all the information is correct. Know the lot size, number of stories, square footage, and condition of your property. You may also want to identify comparable properties at this time and review their file cards. Almost all of the information, in the assessor's office is available to the public and the office can help you find comparable properties. Do this well before your hearing date.
Your aim, at this informal review, which is not yet an appeal, should be
- To verify the information on your property record file card or correct it.
- To make sure you understand how your value was determined.
- To discover if the value is fair compared with the values of similar properties in your neighborhood.
- To find out if you qualify for any exemptions.
- To be sure you understand how to file a formal appeal and how the office can help you if you still wish to make an appeal.
What Determines Assessment?
The fair Market Value of a Property Determines the Assessment.
The Fair Market Value is the price that most people would be willing to pay, in its current condition as of the assessment date. The best indicator of Fair Market Value is market activity. Buyers and Sellers create market value, by their transactions. The best evidence of market value is the sale price of the subject property or of similar properties (called comparables). However, the sale price is not necessarily the same as the market value. The assessor's office carefully examines all sales, qualifies the sales, and adjusts them for special circumstances that might decrease or inflate prices. An owner in a hurry to sell may sell for less. Many taxpayers are confused about increases in assessed value when the property has not changed, but physical change is not the only reason for a change in property value. The economic market is another reason. As an example, if a town's major industry leaves, property values collapse. Conversely, as homebuyers discover neighborhoods with good housing stock, prices gradually rise and may soar as the neighborhood becomes more fashionable. A shortage of houses, in a desirable neighborhood, can send prices to ridiculous levels. In a stable neighborhood, with no extraordinary pressure from the market, inflation may increase the property value.
How Assessors Value Property
The first step in valuation is data collection. The assessor's office collects quantities of information about each property in the town or city. The information is recorded on a property file card (aka street card or field card), which may be reviewed, for accuracy, by the taxpayer to apply this information to your property. The assessor constructs a cost model. Most residential property is valued, with a cost model and/or a sales comparison model. A cost model states that the estimated market value of your property equals the value of the land and the cost of constructing a replacement, less depreciation. Depreciation depends largely on age, condition, and the desirability of the property's features and location. A sales comparison model states that the estimated market value of your property equals the sale price of comparable property, with adjustments to the sale price for differences between your property and the comparable. For example, if your property has a swimming pool, and two bathrooms but the comparable has no pool and 3 bathrooms, you would add the value of the pool to the comparable's sale price and subtract the value of a bathroom. The result would be evidence of what you might expect to sell your property for.
The Appeals Process
If, after meeting with someone from the assessor's office (or the revaluation company during revaluation years), you still disagree with the Assessor's valuation, the next level is the Board of Assessment Appeals or Superior Court. The assessor's office will provide you with the proper form you need to appeal your assessment. Please follow the instructions carefully and be sure to include what you feel is the correct assessment of your property. Any appraisals you might bring should be done specifically for your Board of Assessment Appeals. Any photos or other evidence you bring to your hearing will become the property of the town. No copies of evidence will be made for you at the time of your hearing.