Should you appeal your B.C. property assessment?
Published Monday, January 11, 2016 6:00AM PST Last Updated Monday, January 11, 2016 7:50PM PST
Property assessments are up as much as 28 per cent in some areas of Metro Vancouver.
You do have options if you want to challenge your increase, but they are not for the faint of heart.
Chris Urbanowski, who just saw a 28 per cent jump on the value of his 57-year-old East Vancouver home, plans to appeal. Despite being sandwiched between two bigger new houses, it’s been valued at $1,050,000 -- up a shocking $230,000.
"I'm not a rich person," Urbanowski told CTV News, "That's just way ridiculous."
Real estate attorney John McLachlan said appealing homeowners have to go in armed with a case.
"It's not just enough to critique BC Assessments evidence. You have to produce before the panel and the board your own evidence," John McLachlan said.
Start by checking BC Assessment online to make sure the description of your property is accurate. A mistake on square footage, age and number of rooms could mean a reduction.
And check your neighbors assessments.
Urbanowski did that and found the land values were the same as his but the buildings are valued differently. His neighbour’s house was valued at $271,000, while his was just $24,500.
Next you could pay up to $500 to have an appraisal done, based on values as of July 2015.
You also want to check to make sure it’s not an anomaly that drove up the price. Talk to buyers of comparable property to yours who may have paid more because of something intangible.
"It may be the house has a lucky number attached to it or something like that isn't reflective of what's on your property” said McLachlan. “That may be used to throw out that sale."
If you still want to appeal after doing those things, there are three potential steps. First stop is the Property Assessment Review Panel, where you get five minutes before a volunteer group to present your case. The deadline to file is January 31st. Next stop is the Property Assessment Appeal Board. Most residential appeals are in writing and cost $30. The deadline to file is April 30th. And finally, if all else fails and you still want to go further, you can take your case to The British Columbia Supreme Court.
But is it worth it to go that far to appeal this year’s assessment?
"I think the sticker shock is probably greater than the reality, " says McLachlan.
Urbanowski will not face a 28 per cent increase in property taxes on his property, despite the assessment increase because Vancouver has set a 2.3 per cent property tax increase for 2016.
As the tax assessments go up, the city adjusts the ratio down to ensure that there’s not an outrageous jump in the revenue pool and it only collects only what it needs to operate. However, if your assessment is unusually higher than the average in your area you will likely carry a larger burden of the load – meaning your tax increase could end up be larger than was set by your municipality.
But Urbanowski isn’t deterred. He plans to continue on the appeal process. Stats show he has a 50 per cent chance of getting a reduction but if he’s successful, the assessor can also appeal.
And beware: the appeal could go in the wrong direction and you could end up with a higher assessment.
In response to the escalating the assessments, the province is increasing the threshold for those eligible for the $570 home owners grant to $1.2 million.
If you are struggling and facing the possibility of higher property taxes, the province offers a tax deferral program for homeowners over 55 and for families with children. But you will will have a lien placed on your property and you will be charged simple interest on the outstanding balance until the taxes are paid. The rate is 0.85 per cent for the seniors program and 2.85 per cent for the families with children.