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Homeowners hear how to appeal high property tax assessments

NOW: Homeowners hear how to appeal high property tax assessments

SOUTH BEND, Ind. —- On Thursday, Homeowners in South Bend let their frustrations out about the St. Joseph County’s property tax assessment process. 

South Bend Common Council President Tim Scott invited homeowners out to the Near Northwest Neighborhood to learn more about the process and how to appeal. However, people wanted to hear from the County Assessor Rosemary Mandrici, who did not attend the meeting. 

“She’s not here tonight simply because they have extended hours because this is getting close to the end of the appeal process,” said Rafael Morton, president of the St. Joseph County Council. 

The deadline to appeal your property tax assessment is June 15. 

ABC 57 News reported 56 percent of county properties saw an increase in property tax assessment values this year. Many people said the increase is costing them more than a few thousand dollars. 

Tiffany Simmons, who was at Thursday night’s meeting, said her assessment jumped up by nearly $40,000. 

“I know for sure that I have not made any improvements,” she said. “There’s no reason that my property should be assessed at the way that it is.”

Beth Szweda, assessor and appraiser at Correct Property Tax LLC, said it is definitely worth the homeowner’s time to appeal. On her company’s website, the group shares the following tips on appealing property taxes:

“1. Studies show that 40-60% of all properties in the U.S. are over-assessed, yet only 5% appeal.

A Forbes magazine article indicates this stunning statistic. While this is a broad statement of all U.S. property, Indiana is not far off. It is vital that you investigate all aspects of your assessment to see if you are in the majority of over-assessed property and meet the deadline for filing an appeal.

2. There are strict deadlines for assessors to act on appeals.

The filing deadline is 45 days from the date of the notice or May 10th, whichever is first. The deadlines are not just for filing. There are also many procedure deadlines that the assessor and taxpayer must adhere to. Information published by the Department of Local Government Finance is quite complex. There were many changes in legislation that affected appeals in 2017. I urge you to read through all of these or seek the advice of an attorney or qualified tax representative before filing your appeal.

5. If a property assessment goes up by more the 5%, the burden of proof shifts from owner to assessor.

What it means is that the assessor is required to show evidence and reasoning for increasing an assessment by more than 5% in any given year. It does not qualify for property that has added improvements. If the assessor does not meet the burden of proof, the assessment automatically reverts to the most recent assessment before changes.”

Szweda said she has many clients in St. Joseph County. Just last year she said people filed 5,800 appeals with the county assessor’s office. 

She said 70 percent of the people who appealed won. 

According to the county assessor website, the following steps are how to submit an appeal: 

  1. Complete Form 130.
  2. Complete Power of Attorney if necessary.
  3. Check the information needed to verify you have included the required documentation.
  4. Hand deliver or return by mail, e-mail, or fax. 

Szweda said she encourages people to submit appeals by mail, ask for two copies, and receive a time and date stamp. 

She said it’s important to note sales in the neighborhood compared to the received property assessment or an appraisal in the Form 130. 

“If your house would sell for less than what your assessment is then you should really look at appealing the assessment,” Szweda said. 

After the appeal is submitted, Szweda said it is important to follow up with the county assessor’s office about a preliminary assessment hearing. At this hearing, according to Szweda, the county assessor and homeowner will discuss how and why the assessment should stay the same or be lowered. 

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