Property Assessment FAQ’s
Flaherty Fardo, LLC are experienced Allegheny County property assessment lawyers. We provide Allegheny County Property Assessment FAQ’s (frequently asked questions) as a benefit to the residents of Allegheny County, and western Pennsylvania.
If you have specific property assessment questions, please let us know by calling us at 412.802.6666 or emailing us at email@example.com.
Allegheny County Property Assessment FAQ’s:
- What is a property assessment?
- How do I calculate my property taxes?
- Who sets taxation rates?
- What is the 2012 base year?
- Where did my 2013 assessment come from?
- Is my current assessment value correct?
- How do I reduce my tax bill?
- Where do I get an appeal form?
- How do I know if my appeal was received?
- When is the deadline to appeal?
- Where does the appeals board meet?
- What is the informal hearing?
- What is the difference between informal and formal?
- Will I receive my decision at the hearing?
- Can I file both appeals at the same time?
- When is my hearing?
- What if my notice arrives when I am away?
- What if I can’t attend?
- What evidence do I need?
- Do I need an attorney?
- Can I send someone in my place?
- Should I attend if the school appealed me?
- Can I appeal if I lose?
- What happens at the BOV?
- Can I appeal the BOV?
- What is the history of assessments?
- Do you have any other articles?
PART I. Property Assessments:
Q: What is a property assessment?
A property assessment is the value that Allegheny County says your property is worth for property taxation purposes. It is important because your county assessed value directly determines the basis for your county tax, school district tax and local property tax every single year. All three property taxes are calculated using the county property assessment. Therefore, the lower your assessment, the lower your property taxes. Current property assessments are still based upon the fair market value using a 2002 base year. Property owners will therefore be taxed on the same assessment value they were taxed on in 2011 in 2012 as well. The 2012 reassessment values will be used for taxation purposes in 2013, and for future years. This reassessment should reflect the fair market value as of January 1, 2012.
Q: How do I calculate my property taxes?
Allegheny County Property taxes are calculated by multiplying the county property assessment times the current millage rate for each specific taxing entity. The county millage rate for 2012 is 5.69 mills. Each school district and local taxing entity (municipality/borough or township) set their own specific millage rates. EXAMPLE: County assessed value: $100,000 County millage rate: 5.69 (county tax = $569 / year) School millage rate: 20.00 (school taxes would = $2,000 / year) Local millage rate: 5.00 (local tax = $500 / year) In this example, a property assessed at $100,000 would pay a total of $3,069/year in property taxes. Typically, the school district millage rate is largest, but not always. Also, a good rule of thumb is that most property owners pay about $3,000 / year for every $100,000 their property is assessed. Hence, a property assessed at $100,000 will typically pay about $3,000 / year and a property assessed at $500,000 will pay about $15,000/ year. In commercial properties, this means that a 3 Million dollar property pays about $90,000 / year in property taxes ($7,500 /month).
Q: Who sets taxation rates?
The county tax millage is set by the Allegheny County Council. School district tax millages are set by local school boards. Municipal (local) tax millages are set by individual municipalities. These are typically set in the end of each calendar year for the following year and are done in public.
Q: What is the 2012 base year?
The Base Year is the year in which the last County-wide reassessment occurred. For 2012 taxation purposes, the base year is 2002. For 2013 taxation purposes (and for future years until the next reassessment), the base year is 2012. Therefore for 2013 property appeals, all values represent the estimated base year market value of the property as of January 1, 2012, unless otherwise updated due to permits, appeals, corrections, flood loss or catastrophic loss. Base year methodology allows similar homes to have similar assessments until the next County-wide reassessment.
Q: Where did my 2013 assessment come from?
“OPA assessors use a computer assisted mass appraisal system (CAMA) to help generate property assessment values. They determine value primarily by comparison with sales from 2009, 2010 and 2011 on properties with similar characteristics within your defined neighborhood. For increased accuracy, the system also takes into account the variations that exist within Allegheny County’s unique neighborhoods. Additionally, our assessors travel throughout the county to collect property data and review assessment valuations.” (Source Allegheny County Website).
Q: Is my current assessment value correct?
Allegheny County claims, in regards to assessments based on the 2002 base year: “The best way to ensure that your value is correct is to make sure that OPA has correct information regarding the data and characteristics of the property that you own. To obtain this information, check with the OPA Public Information Office in Room 303 of the County Office Building at 542 Forbes Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, or online at the Real Estate Web site. Sale prices of similar properties in your area from 1999, 2000 and 2001 are a good indicator of your current assessment.” (Source Allegheny County Website). The same logic applies to the 2012 base year values. Property owners need to ensure that the building/property information contained in the reassessment notices being sent by the county are correct. Sale prices of similar homes in the same area that occurred in 2009, 2010, and 2011 are relevant to what the appropriate assessment value for your property should be.
Q: How do I reduce my tax bill?
Allegheny County lists the Tax Abatements and Exemptions on their website which include: Act 1: Act 42: – City of Pittsburgh Act 42: – County Act 50 (Homestead/Farmstead Exclusion) Act 76 (LERTA) Act 77 (Senior Citizen Property Tax Relief) Act 132 (Residential Visitability Design Tax Credit Program) Act 156-PA (Clean & Green Program) Act 202 (New Construction) Exemptions (for Non-Profit Organizations and Governmental Entities) Taxation Appeal Challenge
PART II. The Tax Appeals Process:
Q: Where can I get an annual appeal form?
“The annual Assessment Appeal Form is available: Third floor of the County Office Building at 542 Forbes Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, PA 15219. On the Property Appeal Forms web page. All municipal offices.All County-operated senior centers.All Allegheny County-sponsored libraries.” (Source Allegheny County Website).
Q: How do I know my Assessment Appeal form was received?
“Contact the Office of Property Assessments Public Information Line at 412-350-4600 or you can check your property Real Estate Web site to confirm receipt of your appeal form.” (Source Allegheny County Website). Be careful about confirming the status of your appeal online. The Allegheny County website is not always accurate. Try to obtain a time stamped copy of your appeal form.
Q: What is the deadline for filing an annual Appeal Form?
The deadline for filing an informal appeal for City of Pittsburgh, Mt. Oliver and the eastern suburbs is February 15, 2012. The formal appeal deadline for these areas is April 2, 2012. For the other Allegheny county suburbs the appeal deadlines will vary, and this information should be contained in the notices sent out by the county.
Q: When and where does the Board of Appeals meet?
The Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review meets every two weeks at 8:00 a.m. in Room 328 of the County Office Building at Forbes and Ross Streets in downtown Pittsburgh. You can view the 2012 Board Meeting Schedule online.
PART III. The Informal Appeal:
Q: What is an informal hearing?
Informal hearings are typically only used for tax appeal purposes during reassessment years. These hearings are more casual than formal appeals. Informal appeal hearings are designed to both correct property information errors, and also give property owners the opportunity to argue market value. Property owners (or their representatives) are permitted to submit evidence to Hearing Officers without representatives from the school district or municipalities in attendance. The evidence presented at these hearings is then scanned in, and saved in the file for your property.
Q: What is the difference between an informal hearing and a formal hearing?
Informal appeals are one-sided. Evidence presented by a property owner is not contested by a representative for any taxing entity, and no evidence to refute a property owner is submitted. These are more casual, and often involve less risk for a property owner. It is important to remember however that whatever evidence is introduced at these informal hearings will be saved on file for this property, and could therefore be accessed in any future appeal for the property.
Q: Will I receive a decision at the time of my informal appeal hearing?
Decisions are not made at the time of a hearing. Instead, the Hearing Officer makes a recommendation to the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review based on the evidence presented at the hearing. The Board then makes a decision, and a copy of this decision is sent directly to the property owner. The Office of Property Assessments currently estimates that property owners should receive decisions in around 30 days.
Q: Can I file both an informal appeal and a formal appeal?
Property owners can file both an informal appeal and a formal appeal. It is important to make sure that you know the appropriate filing deadlines for both of these appeals. Property owners may not receive informal appeal decisions prior to the formal appeal deadline, so it may be important for property owners to file both appeals. Formal appeals can be withdrawn at any point prior to the formal appeal hearing.
PART IV. First Level Formal Appeal Hearing - Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment and Review(BPAR):
Q: When will I be assigned a hearing date?
“You will be notified by mail approximately 14 days prior to the hearing with date, time and location for all residential properties; approximately 30 days’ prior notice is given for all commercial properties.” (Source Allegheny County Website). The reality is notice is usually mailed anywhere between 10 days and 30 days prior to the hearings. We have had cases with notice of 7 days or less. Normally, the Office of Property Assessment works with owners on rescheduling when short notice occurs.
Q: I will be away on vacation for a few weeks — what if my notice arrives while I’m away?
“If you have not made arrangements through your local post office for your mail to be forwarded, it may be a good idea to call our public information center periodically at 412-350-4600 to check on the status.” (Source Allegheny County Website). If you miss the hearing entirely then you can either petition the office of property assessment or file a petition with Judge R. Stanton Wettick asking the court to reschedule the hearing. Call us with any questions 412.802.6666 if that happens and we will help guide you.
Q: What should I do if I am not able to attend my scheduled hearing date?
“Please call our public information center at 412-350-4600. Any of our Service Coordinators will be able to assist you. Keep in mind that you have the right to postpone a scheduled hearing only once.” (Source Allegheny County Website). Typically, as stated, the OPA (Office of Property Assessment (i.e. Mae and Lori are very helpful) and will work with you in rescheduling if necessary. Also, the appeals manager Butch Ramsey is very professional and nice, and does work with property owners and attorneys.
Q: What type of evidence, if any, must I bring to my appeal hearing?
When challenging the 2013 reassessment values, the county website states: “The last County-wide reassessment was 2012, also known as the Base Year. At your hearing, you must be able to show what your property was worth in 2012. You can do this by researching similar homes in your neighborhood, finding similar properties to yours that sold in 2012 or before, checking with local Realtors, and/or getting an appraisal with an effective date of January 1, 2012. It is recommended that you provide a copy of the sales comparables for your property from our Real Estate Web site. Also, you can make arrangements with the public information center to obtain a property record card so that you can view the data characteristics we have recorded for your property. If there are discrepancies, notify us before your hearing so that they can be corrected – just call 412-350-4600. “(Source Allegheny County Website). Obviously, if you would like to challenge the 2012 (current year) assessment, property owners need to prepare the same type of evidence but use a 2002 base year. The 2002 base year will only be relevant for appeals occurring in 2012. Property owners should find comparable sales that occurred in or around the base year they are required to use (current sales for 2013 appeals, 2002 sales for 2012 appeals). These sales should be of similar homes in the same neighborhood as the subject. Also, the property owner (or representative) is required to bring extra copies of their evidence so they can be distributed to all parties in attendance at the hearing (school district representative, etc.).
Q: Do I need to hire an attorney to represent me?
“Hiring an attorney to represent you is your choice. Legal representation is not required. However, most school districts and municipalities will have legal counsel present.”(Source Allegheny County Website). We believe, similar to personal injury cases, that settlements and decisions are more advantageous when a property owner is properly represented by legal counsel. There is usually significant taxes at stake, possibly for multiple years. The cost of an attorney can be recovered very easily by a favorable outcome. Experience with the process, and the individuals involved can make a difference in these cases. We analyze every case first to ensure that our efforts will justify the cost through increased tax savings.
Q: If I cannot attend my hearing, may I send someone else?
“Yes, you can decide to send another interested party provided they have an authorized representative form from you with your signature.”(Source Allegheny County Website). Authorized representatives can be anyone at the first level only (BPAR). At the second level, (BOV), only the property owner, interested party (i.e. tenant), or attorney may appear.
Q: If the school district or the municipality filed an appeal against my property, should I attend?
“You are not required to attend an appeal filed on your property by your school district or municipality. However, you may attend the hearing to present evidence for your case if you so choose.”(Source Allegheny County Website). CAUTION! If you do not appear, your property taxes will almost definitely increase. You must defend school district appeals regardless of what you paid. The county should have stressed the importance of attending the hearing more in their own FAQ’s. We cannot overestimate the importance of challenging the school district appeals.
PART V. Second Level Formal Appeal – Allegheny County Board of Viewers Hearing (BOV):
Q: Can the decision from the first level (BPAR) be appealed?
You do NOT receive a decision at the first level (BPAR) hearing. The hearing officer makes a recommendation to the Board of Property Assessment of Allegheny County, and the Board issues the decision. The decision is typically mailed about 2-3 months after the BPAR hearing. However, we have seen cases as long as 10 months. Once the decision is rendered, all parties (property owner and each of the taxing entities has 30 days to appeal the decision (de novo – meaning “fresh” or “new”) to the Allegheny Board of Viewers (BOV). It is very important to know your appeal rights.
Q: What happens at the BOV hearing?
Once the case is appealed from the BPAR (first level) to the BOV (second level), it normally takes anywhere between 10 months and 2 years for the case to be listed. It is a long wait and almost always means there will be multiple years at issue by the time the case is finally called. The BOV hearing occurs on the 8th floor of the City County Building as opposed to the BPAR which is on the 3rd floor of the County Office Building. The hearing is DE NOVO, which means whatever happened at the first level (BPAR) is now legally irrelevant. The appeal process starts over and the question is what is the base year value of the property under appeal. Unlike the first level (BPAR), the BOV hearing is in a courtroom, and often there are attorneys from the county, school and even municipalities. There is always a conciliation process first, where everyone attempts to negotiate a settlement for all years involved. At the BOV level, proper legal counsel is essential. Unlike the BPAR, non-attorneys are precluded from appearing on behalf of property owners. What this means is that if you hired a representative for the BPAR hearing, make sure you understand if they are allowed to continue through the end of the case, since there efforts may be wasted since the BOV is a new appeal. The first level (BPAR) hearing is important though, because it determines the properties assessed value for taxation purposes pending the lengthy BOV appeal. If the parties are unable to resolve the case at a conciliation, then the case goes to an actual trial in front of an appointed hearing master. It is a real trial, with opening arguments, cross-examinations and using the rules of evidence. It is absolutely essential to have competent legal counsel if you are trying your case at the BOV. The other reality is that you normally will not get the best settlement unless you have counsel and are prepared to go to trial. The taxing entities will often pressure and attempt to scare property owners into unfair settlements if they are unrepresented. Often, we will hear the statements from attorneys for the school state: ” Let’s go to trial then.” This is said in effort to scare property owners into settling. Don’t be bullied by the school districts. If you have additional questions about the BOV process, email us firstname.lastname@example.org or call us: 412.802.6666.
Q: Can I appeal the BOV hearing?
Typically, no. Once you settle your BOV case, it is closed. The only manner in which to appeal a BOV decision is if your case actually goes to trial (which is rare). If you believe the decision was erroneous and not supported by the facts at trial, or if you believe the trial judge abused their discretion in rendering the decision you can seek reconsideration in front of Judge R. Stanton Wettick. However, this is the not the same appellate review as from the BPAR (De Novo (new)). It is very high standard to show that the decision was erroneous or that the judge abused their discretion. Also, it should be noted that we have seen cases, where property owners settled cases, and then because they only settled because they felt pressured, were able to reschedule a new hearing by petition the court to vacate the settlement. This is rare and difficult.
What is the history of Allegheny County assessments?
Allegheny County property assessments have had a long and tumultuous history with the residents of Allegheny County. Primary Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6/6/07 1970 — Green Tree Borough filed suit challenging the county’s system of assessing one-third of the county every year, claiming that was unfair to all three areas 1977 — Wilkinsburg filed a similar suit. 1979 — Common Pleas Judge Nicholas P. Papadakos took control of the cases. Oct. 1, 1979 — Judge Papadakos brokered a consent decree that eliminated the annual regional assessments and required the county to assess every property on a regular basis. Oct. 17, 1982 — Judge Papadakos ends court oversight of the assessment system because the changes resulted in “fair, equitable and uniform assessments.” Feb. 13, 1992 — A computer-aided study of 500,000 properties by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette finds the values of many of them are substantially out of whack compared to their purchase price. January 1994 — An effort to address assessment problems results in substantial increases in property values — some more than 40 percent — leading to a taxpayer revolt. Jan. 1, 1996 — Fueled by the assessment controversy, Republicans Larry Dunn and Bob Cranmer give their party majority control of the county commissioners for the first time in six decades. Their first day in office they freeze assessments for five years so the county can fix the system. May 13, 1996 — Six homeowners file suit against the assessment freeze, claiming it unfairly freezes values at inaccurate levels. April 15, 1997 –Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. declares the freeze illegal and orders the county to prepare a plan to begin developing a new assessment for implementation in 1998 for properties whose values are more than 20 percent above or below fair market value. Jan. 9, 1998 — In exchange for the county implementing a full reassessment by 2001 instead of 2002, Judge Wettick puts off changes for properties more than 20 percent off of fair market value but also orders across-the-board assessment increases of 2 percent for every property in the county for 1999 and 2000. Feb. 10, 1998 — County hires Sabre Systems and Service of Miamisburg, Ohio, to complete the county wide reassessment for $23.9 million. Jan. 1, 2000 — Republican Jim Roddey, elected as the first county chief executive, inherits the assessment mess.
Jan. 9, 2001 — The county Property Assessment Oversight Board certifies new values for 552,000 properties at $57.1 billion across the county, up 48 percent from 2000. This leads to more than 90,000 appeals.
Jan. 2, 2002 — The new county assessment figures show an overall increase of 11 percent, again leading to more than 90,000 appeals.
Jan 24, 2002 — Mr. Roddey and County Council say they will institute a three-year waiting period before the next county assessment. Nov. 4, 2003 — Campaigning largely on problems generated by new assessments, Democratic county Controller Dan Onorato defeats Mr. Roddey. Feb. 15, 2005 — Responding to proposed new assessment figures for 2006 that would have nearly 80 percent of homeowners facing an assessment increase — 17,000 of them 100 percent or more — Mr. Onorato proposes to cap increases at a maximum of 4 percent. May 12, 2005 — Judge Wettick rules the 4 percent cap is illegal, claiming it would only “exacerbate” disparities in the 2003 assessment. Sept. 20, 2005 — Mr. Onorato announces revised assessment figures for 2006 that call for average residential increases of 5.8 percent. Oct. 4, 2005 — In a surprise move, Mr. Onorato decides not to use the revised figures for 2006 and instead called on County Council to establish 2002 as a base year for assessments, putting the county in line with most other counties that use a base year and adjust assessments to meet values in the base year.
Oct. 27, 2005 — Kenneth Pierce of Braddock and Stephanie Beechaum of the Hill District file suit against the base-year system, saying their properties have decreased in value since 2002.
Oct. 31, 2005 — A second group of homeowners file suit to challenge the base-year system. March 16, 2006 — Judge Wettick rules that state law allows the county to use a base-year system for property assessment, but he allows attorney to challenge the constitutionality of the state law. June 6, 2007 — In a landmark decision, Judge Wettick rules the state law allowing counties to use a base year for property assessments is unconstitutional because it doesn’t treat all taxpayers uniformly, which is a primary requirement
2009 – Supreme Court rules Base Year unconstitutional
2009 – Wettick Orders 2012 County Reassessment Spring 2010 – Residents prepare for 2012 Allegheny County-wide Reassessment
August 18, 2010 – Judge Wettick Holds status conference to receive reports on progress related to countywide 2012 reassessment. October 13, 2010 – Next Scheduled Status Conference
Table of Contents for Allegheny County Property Assessments:
Read Our Latest Property Assessment Articles:
- Allegheny County Ignores Appeal Results & Sends Wrong Tax Bills.
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- Allegheny County Assessments News and Updates
- Judge Denies Request to Lower Assessments
- Should Commercial Property Owners Bypass the First Hearing?
- Status Update for Allegheny County Property Assessments
- Secrets to Winning Your 2013 Allegheny Tax Appeal
- RESULTS OF INFORMAL HEARINGS RELEASED
- Allegheny County Reassessment Update
- Will Legislation Stop the Reassessments?
- How to Defend 2012 & 2013 School Tax Appeals.
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- 3/4/12 – Attorney Fardo to Speak at Seminar on Tax Exemptions.
- 2/8/12 – Did Outsourcing Cause Allegheny County Assessment Chaos?
- 2/8/12 – Allegheny County 2012 Reassessment Update.
- 1/24/12 – Assessment Deadline for City Extended – Others Waiting.
- 1/23/12 – Allegheny County New Assessment Website is a NIGHTMARE for Taxpayers.
- 1/13/12 – VIDEO: Reassessment Update: “Appeal Now, Pay Later”.
- 1/10/12 – Judge Overrules Fitzgerald – Orders 2012 Assessments to Continue
- 1/6/12 – “Scent of a Fitzgerald” : Allegheny County Assessments.
- 1/5/12 – ALERT: County Stops Informal Hearings.
- 1/5/12 – VIDEO: What is the difference between an ‘Informal Hearing’ vs. a ‘Formal Appeal Hearing’?
- 12/29/12 – VIDEO: Pittsburgh Deadline to Appeal Assessments: February 10, 2012.
- 12/29/11 – VIDEO: Pittsburgh Deadline to Appeal Assessments: February 10, 2012.
- 12/7/12 – Pittsburgh Set to Mail 2012 Assessments; County to Raise Millage Rates.
- 12/7/11 – Pittsburgh Set to Mail 2012 Assessments; County to Raise Millage Rates.
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- 2012 Property Reassessment on Schedule Despite Problems.
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- Top 10 Mistakes Made By Property Owners in Allegheny Property Tax Appeals.
- Advice for Defending and Winning School District Property Tax Appeals.
- Do I need an Appraisal for my Allegheny Property Tax Appeal?
- What Happens at the Allegheny County Board of Viewer (BOV) hearing?
- What does the 2002 Base Year Mean for Allegheny County Property Tax Appeals?
- How Do I Defend a School District Property Tax Assessment Appeal?
- The 2012 Allegheny County Reassessments are Coming.
- Defending Tax Appeals – Do Not let the School District into your home or onto your property.
- Why is the School District Appealing my Property Assessment?
- Allegheny County Sued Over Property Reassessments Again (February 2010).
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- How is Property Valued in Allegheny County?
“Noah, Stef and I would like to thank you for the efforts you and your law firm put into our tax appeal. As you know we lost the appeal twice before and really pretty much had given up, that is until your law firm got involved. Not only did you and your team take on our case but you also handled everything without much involvement from us (I really appreciated when you stopped by my house to pick up needed paperwork, unbelievably awesome!!). Thank you for not only winning our appeal and saving us thousands of dollars but for doing so with professionalism, integrity and trust that is not always easy to find nowadays.”
B.B.B. Ohio Township, PA
“Noah, thanks to you and your entire office for assisting with our property appeal. We are very pleased with the settlement outcome. Your advice and guidance throughout this issue was outstanding. I will be happy to recommend your services to other who I know are struggling with the appeals process. Look forward to updates to your blog as well!”
N & S P., Pittsburgh, PA
“When Allegheny county sent an official to visit my house to ask questions concerning my assessment, I was nervous and unsure of how to answer their harassment. I’m glad I immediately thought of you and called to see what my rights were. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of my questions and informing me of my legal rights to refuse them access to my house and land. Not only did you help to calm me down, you completely took over my assessment case and kept the assessors from harassing me. Most importantly, thank you for the thousand of dollars you saved me each year on taxes!!!”
P.R., Sewickley Heights, PA
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