How to Contest a Valuation
Chad Hummel, an Irondequoit attorney, runs a business called the Tax Opposer.
He specializes in helping homeowners get their assessments lowered. It's been his experience that most residents don't even bother to try getting their valuations reduced.
But, he said, it can't hurt to try, as long as you have data to back up your position.
"I have a long working relationship with assessors, and their feedback is a lot of times people come in and they might well be over-assessed, but they come in complaining that their taxes are too high without any proof of what their house is worth," he said. "They're coming in with the wrong argument."
The right argument, he said, is one that has proof behind it showing that the town's numbers are wrong.
"I think lay people who want to challenge fall into three categories" he said. "The first are those people who want to challenge because they do think their taxes are too high, so they go and challenge and get tossed out on their ear. The category two person is the one who tries to pull data, then goes in with wrong data without any conclusions and when they throw that raw data in front of the town, the town will say you haven't proven anything and they get tossed out on their ear.
"The third group pulls the correct data and breaks it down — instead of pulling 10 sales where 8 are unique and not really comparable, they pull 10 or 20 sales and break them down and analyze why they're comparable."
So far, 240 property owners have signed up to contest their new assessments during Brighton's informal valuation reviews coming up in January and February. Property owners who do not prevail during that review, but still think their assessment is inaccurate will be able to contest the valuation again on "grievance day," this year held on May 22. For that, a state Office of Real Property Services complaint form will be required. The next avenue for relief would be a small claims assessment review in court or tax certiorari proceedings in state Supreme Court.
Ogden's Criddle said residents are more likely to prevail in an informal review if they come prepared with documents or data that support their position that the assessment is wrong. That can include a recent appraisal, photos of your property's condition, a sales listing, broker's opinion, sales comparisons with other, similar properties in the town and estimates of work that needs to be done on your property.
"It's always best to be forthcoming and honest and even to allow the assessor or assessor's representative to do an interior inspection," he said. "Anything you can bring in...the more data the better. The assessors are reasonable people, the object is to assess you fairly, equtably and accurately."