While not the most glamorous area of the law, property tax assessments and appeals remain a contentious subject for many South Floridians. More specifically, property owners are generally subject to an annual assessment of the value of their realty - which may vary greatly from year to year depending on both market fluctuations and the whims of the property appraiser. Fortunately, each county maintains an appeals process through which owners may seek a review of the county's appraisal and a possible reduction of the county tax assessment.
However, as residents of Miami-Dade county will likely attest, the appeals process can be excruciatingly slow - sometimes taking years to complete, which has prompted officials to look into a total overhaul of the appeals procedure.
The Property Tax Appeals Process
Each year, property owners across the state of Florida are presented with a notice detailing the county's assessed value of the real estate - along with an estimated property tax bill. Upon receipt, owners are invited to review the details of the notice and contact their local Property Tax Appraiser's office to discuss any discrepancies or unclear calculations. In some cases, this "interview" process can lead to an adjustment and resolution of the matter. However, oftentimes, it becomes necessary to initiate the formal appeals process with the help of a real estate attorney familiar with local procedures and processes.
To officially start the appeals process, a property owner must submit a petition to the county's Value Adjustment Board by the deadline printed on the annual assessment notice. The VAB is a separate and distinct agency from the property appraiser's office that will organize a hearing before a Special Magistrate to review the appeal. The Magistrate, which is an administrative officer, will be someone with special knowledge of appraisal techniques and will review both the assessor's defense of the appraisal and the landowner's argument in favor of a reduced assessment.
Backlogs and Delays
While the wait-time for a review varies depending on the county, property owners in Miami-Dade are reportedly waiting up to two years before their property tax appeal is heard by the Special Magistrate. During this time, public schools are reportedly left waiting for funds and other governmental agencies are similarly burdened by the unresolved tax assessments - which are necessary to create a budget and maintain employee payroll.
While the problems in Miami-Dade have been attributed to under-staffing, petitioner rescheduling and loaded dockets, property owners are still encouraged to initiate the appeals process if the assessor's valuation seems far too high or incongruent with current market conditions.
Need Help With a Property Tax Appeal? Contact Ft. Lauderdale Real Estate Attorney Michael L. Feinstein
The property tax appeals process can sometimes involve highly-technical evidence concerning appraisal techniques, as well as detailed procedural matters and local protocol. For help with this process, please do not hesitate to contact Michael L. Feinstein today at 954-767-9662.