While the official release of our new white paper, "Are You Getting a Fair Hearing? Appealing Your Property Taxes in Lake County," is Monday, here are six important points that we found:
1) We found that appellants often feel rushed and humiliated at their hearings. This is directly related to how the Board members treat the appellants (we have first person accounts of this in the white paper). Appellants feel rushed because they only have 15 minutes at the hearing. We feel appellants should be treated with respect and should have more than 15 minutes at their hearings.
2) After receiving their blue card, appellants have only 30 days to get their appeal data to the Chief County Assessor. We feel this is an insufficient amount of time, especially if the appellant has to hire a certified appraiser.
3) We have received complaints from property owners that they received the Township Assessors "defense" packet 1-2 days, or sometimes even at the appeal itself. This leaves very little time to prepare a rebuttal. The packets are unintelligible for the layperson. Only an appraiser or assessor can understand it. While by law, the assessors are not under any specific deadline to get the packet to the appellant, we encourage the Lake County Board to demand at least one week prior to the hearing.
4) We discovered that at hearings, when presented with compelling comparable properties from the appellant and the assessor that back each parties argument, the Board of Review almost always sides with the assessor. What we could not understand is why there is never a sufficient explanation of why the Board chooses not to use the appellants comparables, even if they are compelling. While the law states that they have no responsibility to do so, CAP feels the Board should provide a sufficient explanation to the appellant.
5) Unless there is a glaring error, CAP has found that the only way to successfully reduce your assessment at an appeal is to get a certified appraisal. These cost between $300 and $325. CAP suggests that if an appellant wins a reduction at appeal, the County/Township should reimburse the appellant for the appraisal fee.
6) We think that the Chief County Assessor, who acts as the Clerk to the Board of review, could be seen as a conflict of interest.