Board of Review - Important Information For 2016

When are assessment notices going to be mailed this year?

The CCAO will begin publishing 2016 assessment changes starting in July, and mailings will continue through August this year. Information on publications and assessment notice mailings also appears here

The Board of Review has made some changes to their rules and procedures for assessment appeal hearings. One misconception is that a property owner would need to have an attorney to file an assessment appeal. Can a taxpayer still file an assessment appeal?

Yes, in nearly all instances a taxpayer can file the assessment appeal without the assistance of an attorney. The county provides a tremendous amount of property assessment related information on the CCAO website. The Board of Review has tools that can be used for searching for comparable property information and completing forms on the office website. Corporations and limited liability companies will need to utilize an attorney in the assessment appeal for their properties.

Is an attorney the only professional that can represent a party at the Board of Review?

Yes, this is true. In Illinois an attorney is the only professional that can represent a party in a judicial or quasi-judicial setting like the Board of Review process (705 ILCS 205/1).

I have sought the assistance of a real estate broker when I have gone through the assessment appeal process in recent years. How can these types of licensed professionals help me in an assessment appeal with the Lake County Board of Review in 2016?

Illinois licensed real estate brokers, real estate appraisers, accountants, and other professionals may assist you with the preparation of case evidence and testify at hearings before the Board of Review as expert witnesses. These professionals cannot represent a taxpayer at a hearing or file an assessment appeal cases on behalf of any party seeking relief from the Lake County Board of Review.

Those not qualified to practice law in the State of Illinois may not appear at hearings before the Board in a representative capacity and may not conduct questioning, cross-examination or other investigations at the hearing. Non-attorneys may not testify at a hearing without the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s attorney. In the instance where an appeal is filed by a non-attorney agent, the materials provided will be returned to the agent. Filing deadlines will not be extended for appellants who utilize non-attorney agents.

Can I e-file my assessment appeal with the Board of Review? 
 
Online filing of appeals is available in Lake County in 2016. Over half of the assessment appeal submissions last year were completed in this manner. The online filing application allows for the uploading of evidence such as the Lake County Comparable Property Grid, an ad valorem appraisal and a legal brief. For cases regarding the recent sale of a subject property, the online application requires answering a series of questions about the transaction and allows for the upload of a HUD-1 or Settlement Statement. Filers will receive an email confirmation that their case has been submitted within one business day of the filing being completed.

It is important to note that the online appeal application depends upon the successful operation of many electronic systems, each beyond the control of the Board of Review. Lake County cannot guarantee the availability of the online application, and the Board highly recommends appellants not wait until a filing deadline to submit their appeals online. Filing deadlines are fixed and not extended if, for some reason, the online application is unavailable. 

How should I go about evaluating my 2016 property assessment valuation? 

We recommended these steps to review your assessment valuation:
1. Review all of the information on the assessment notice.
2. Visit assessor.lakecountyil.gov to review assessment information including property characteristics, comparable property information, and the e-filing process.
3. Discuss any questions on your assessment value or property information with your township assessor’s office.
4. If an assessment appeal is in order, prepare evidence by using the Lake County Comparable Grid, and other materials such as appraisals, or sales documents.
5. Complete an assessment appeal form (by paper, or electronically using the e-filing system) and submit with supporting evidence to the Board of Review by the prescribed deadline.
6. You can attend the hearing in person, by telephone, or submit case materials and ask the Board of Review to decide the case based on the evidence provided. Most cases can be resolved without in-person or telephone hearing. Particularly cases based upon a recent purchase of a subject property, or those based upon an appraisal provided by an Illinois licensed provider.

How does an assessment appeal hearing work?

At the outset of a hearing the parties to a case are sworn in, appeal hearings are conducted in the following manner: The appellant presents testimony regarding the assessment and answers any questions from the Board. Next, the Township Assessor or a representative from his/her office is expected to be present to give evidence and testimony concerning the property and its assessment. The appellant then presents rebuttal to Assessor remarks. This concludes the evidentiary portion of the hearing. Board Members then deliberate, considering the evidence, testimony and rebuttal, and announce their decision at the close of the hearing. Hearings are scheduled at 15 minute intervals.

What website tools exist to help me with an assessment appeal?
• Lake County Comparable Program – allows the taxpayer to review their property information, search for comparable properties and complete the Lake County Comparable Property Grid.
• Online Appeal Filing Application – the appellant can e-file their assessment appeal and various documents pertinent to an assessment appeal case.
• Lake County Maps Online – aerial photography and map making ability.

Are there any ways a taxpayer can get assistance with their assessment value related questions?
• Have a conversation with your elected township assessor’s office. Generally these offices want to hear from taxpayers or have them stop in to get their property tax assessment valuation questions answered.
• Attend a Tax Assessment Help Center to receive one-on-one assistance from the Chief County Assessment Office.
• Talk to a Taxpayer Advocate with the Chief County Assessment Office Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. by calling 847.377.2050, or visiting the office at: 18 N County St., 7th Floor, Waukegan.
• Utilize all of the web tools and resources at the Chief County Assessment Office and Board of Review websites.  

If I provided appropriate evidence, can my township assessor adjust my assessment after it is published and noticed?

Yes, the township assessor’s office has the ability to modify the assessment value after the assessment notice has been mailed. The assessor can request a valuation change be approved by the Board of Review. These value change requests of an assessor are submitted to the Board of Review electronically.

If I have recently purchased my home and my assessment valuation reflects a market value higher than my purchase price, what can I do?

Generally, this is the most straight forward type of assessment related circumstance. We would suggest that you take information on your purchase and discuss your assessment valuation with your township assessor's office. Assessors can recommend a change in your assessment valuation to the Board of Review which will eliminate the need to file an assessment appeal.

If you find that your township assessor's office is unable to make a recommendation to the Board of Review, you may need to file an assessment appeal. In this instance, you will want to provide a copy of the HUD-1 closing document, the PTAX-203 Illinois Transfer Declaration, or any other proof that the sale was advertised and was an arms-length transaction. There is no need to have representation at the Board of Review in this type of circumstance. Often, the Board of Review resolves these types of assessment appeals without a formal hearing.

Is a real estate appraisal a good piece of evidence?

Generally, one of the best pieces of evidence is a real estate appraisal, done for ad valorem property taxation purposes, with a valuation date of January 1, 2016. This is an appraisal that would have been done to determine the value of a property as of the tax lien date (January 1).

Many people have appraisals that have been done for refinancing purposes. These documents can be good evidence of value as well and the Board of Review does accept these documents as evidence.

It is important to understand the scope and purpose of an appraisal that is done for financing can be different than an appraisal that is done for ad valorem taxation purposes. The date of value, time period of comparable sales data and other different lender requirements can significantly affect the value conclusion.

Real estate appraisal is not an exact science. The Board understands that real estate appraisals are educated opinions of value. It is common for value opinions and adjustments to differ from one appraisal professional to another. It should also be understood that in these cases it is common for the township assessor’s office to provide additional market value evidence. The Board of Review will review the appraisal report provided and the assessor evidence to determine an appropriate property tax assessment value for the subject property.

Is there a chance that my assessment appeal can be settled without a formal hearing?

Yes, in recent years, as many as two-thirds of the assessment appeal cases have been resolved without a formal hearing taking place.

The Board of Review will conduct a preliminary review of each properly filed appeal and will render a preliminary decision without scheduling a hearing. Appellants who requested a hearing are contacted via e-mail or phone with the preliminary decision. Appellants have five (5) business days to respond to the preliminary decision. If the decision is agreed upon, no hearing is scheduled and the preliminary decision becomes final. If the appellant is dissatisfied with the preliminary decision or the appellant fails to respond to the preliminary decision within five (5) business days, a hearing is scheduled according to the option selected on the appeal form.