It’s the end of the first week of January, and by now you should have received your 2012 BC Assessment notice in the mail, or checked online to see what the provincial assessment authority values your property at. Most people simply open it, read it, and file it away with their other house documents. It makes great water-cooler banter, as colleagues ask “what was yours assessed at?” and “did yours go up or down?” But what if you disagree with your assessment?
BC Assessment’s mandate is to estimate the market value of your property as of July 1 of the previous year. They do this by using sale data from properties that sell during the year to compare them to yours and come up with a value that a buyer might have been willing to pay had it been for sale. They also get building permit data from municipalities. When you do an addition or alteration and take out a permit, the value of the permit is taken into account also.
If you believe your assessment is either too high or too low, you can dispute it. You have until January 31 to file your appeal (known as a ‘complaint’ or ‘review’ at this stage). Having gone through this myself last year, I thought I’d share what I learned.
I bought my house last fall, and BC Assessment valued it at over $100,000 more than what I paid for it. Because I felt I had a case, I decided to complain about my assessment. It is recommended that before you file a formal complaint, you call the local assessment office listed on your assessment notice and discuss your concerns. They will explain their reasoning behind the assessment. If that still doesn’t satisfy your concerns, you can then file a formal complaint. The easiest way is to do this online. Once you’ve filled in the form, you’ll be contacted with the date of your hearing.
Hearings are held by a Property Assessment Review Panel (PARP). PARPs are comprised of three lay people who are appointed by the minister responsible for BC Assessment. They are not employees of BC Assessment and are not necessarily experts in the assessment field. Their role is to listen to both sides and decide, based on the preponderance of evidence, who is correct.
Now, the hard part – proving your case. It’s easy to disagree with a paper notice, it’s entirely different to go up against a government assessment officer in the PARP hearing! I must admit, I was intimidated, despite valuing properties every day in my profession. You’ll need to gather evidence to support your claim. I would recommend first starting at e-valueBC, BC Assessment’s online property information checker. It’s available from the start of the assessment season in early January until March 31. You can enter your property’s details and select up to 8 other properties to compare it to. For example, if you knew that John’s house down the street sold in June for $400,000 and it’s very similar to yours, and your assessment came in at $450,000, you might be able to use John’s house to compare to yours to support the case.
The more information you bring, the better. Photographs of your property and of the comparable properties you’re using will also help prove your case. I also recommend using the CRD Atlas to print aerial photos and maps of your property and the comparables you are using. This visual aid will help the PARP understand your case. At the review hearing, you’ll be asked to present your case first. You can call witnesses, if necessary. If you have a written presentation, you will need to bring five copies. After your presentation, the assessor will give his or hers. He or she will likely sound a lot more professional and polished than you will, since they do this all the time! After both sides have presented, either can ask questions of the other. The panel usually makes its decisions within a few minutes – they will leave the room to deliberate. However in some cases (mine included), they will reserve judgment and you’ll get their decision by mail a few weeks later.
I was almost certain that I would be unsuccessful, as the assessor’s presentation was much better than mine, but I guess they found my evidence convincing, as my assessment was reduced to just over what I paid for the home, which I thought was fair.
If you still disagree with the PARP’s decision, you can appeal to the Property Assessment Appeal Board before April 30.
BC Assessment’s website contains lots of FAQs and information on the dispute process:
Were you satisfied with your assessment notice this year? Have you ever disputed an assessment? What was the outcome?