January 24, 2011 7 Comments
Once a property owner has filed an appeal on his or her parcel, and it doesn’t get reduced at the assessor’s office, it gets forwarded onto the board of equalization. This is who will listen to the appeal from the assessor’s office as well as the property owner.
After the board listens to the appeal, they will render a decision as to the value and the results will be mailed to the homeowner via certified mail within a week to ten days after the hearing. If the homeowner is still not satisfied with the board’s decision, he or she may file the matter onto superior court within 30 days of the results being mailed out.
The members of the board of equalization or “b.o.e” are “supposed” to be independent of the assessor’s office and they are usually appointed by the grand jury of the county the property is located in. For the most part, the clerk of court or the district attorney’s office, oversees the board of equalization and members who make up the boards.
Typically the board members are retired and come from all walks of life. Each of them must take a 40 hour course on appraisal methods, etc. as well as a few hours of continuing education annually. After this, they are allowed to listen to appeals and render the decisions as to the fair market value on millions of dollars of real estate. That alone is plain scary because it takes years to understand how land and improvements are valued and how improvements are depreciated and how to understand an income approach to value or market approach to value. What i’m trying to say is that 40 hours of course work on this will provide someone with just enough information to basically be “dangerous.”
If a taxpayer goes to his or her hearing and gets a “bad” board, he or she will receive a “no change” in the value and then no money will be saved on the tax bill for that particular tax year. If at all possible, it is best to to meet with the appraiser handling your appeal, to try to come up with something agreeable to both parties. If one doesn’t do this, then it is a “crap” shoot of how the appeal is going to go because the person appealing the assessment won’t find out what board he or she has until he or she arrives at the hearing.
I have been appealing assessments for the past 17 years and i still run into some of the same board members who have been doing it for as long as i have or longer than i have. Some of them are good to appear in front of, and will do their job correctly, and for the most part the taxpayer has a chance to obtain a reduction in their value. On the flip side, some of them don’t have a clue, really, as to what is going on and they typically always side with the appraiser and do whatever he or she recommends (even though they are supposed to make a decision on their own independent of what the appraiser says or what the taxpayer says.)
I’ve found that when appearing before the board of equalization, it is important to allow the county appraiser to go first and it is important not to interrupt the appraiser or any of the board members. It also helps to speak slowly and clearly and to engage the board and make sure they are paying attention to what is going on and that they get the gist of what the taxpayer is trying to convey.
From my past experience in some of the larger counties in metro Atlanta, I’ve noticed that some of the board members feel that they are “un-touchable,” because they don’t really answer to anyone and they can seem uppity, rude, condescending and “pro-county.”
I’ve done over 1,000 hearings in my time and i know how the process works and i have pretty much seen about everything there is to see at these hearings. I’ve been treated well by some boards and very poorly by others, but i know what i can do about it.
The sad thing is that the property owners doing their own appeals for the first time may get “run over” by a board and not even know it. It is imperative for a taxpayer to report this behavior if he or she feels that they were mistreated. It is important that the people in charge at the county, who run the board, know what was experienced and it’s important to let the d.a.’s office know what happened as well as the clerk’s office if applicable.
The board members have to answer to someone just like the rest of us and they can be fired or removed from their position. Many of them, being retired and all, don’t want to lose their position, because then they don’t get paid and they have nothing to do really and it’s hard finding work these days.
The bottom line is remember the “golden rule” and treat the board like you would want to be treated.
I’ve made it a practice to speak up immediately, if i’ve had a negative experience at any board in any county. It’s like a lady from the d.a.’s office at a large, metro, county told me one day, “the d.a’s office giveth that board position and the d.a’s office can taketh that position away too.”
If any of you have had a bad experience at a board of equalization hearing, I would like to hear about it. Also, if any of you feel like you will be outside your comfort zone, presenting an appeal, contact me. It doesn’t cost as much as you think to have professional representation.