Attorney David Seltzer Is Proud to Offer Legal Representation in Property Tax Assessment Appeals

July 22, 2009 by David S. Seltzer

I am happy to announce a new service I offer for property owners in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties: representation for homeowners seeking to challenge the assessment of their property values, and thus their property taxes. I saw a need for this kind of representation after months of reading about the difficulties facing South Florida property owners, who are facing a probable property tax hike, plummeting home values and the same financial difficulties faced by everyone else in this bad economy.

Property values are determined by a county assessor, who looks at sales prices for the property and similar properties in the year before the beginning of the current tax year. For this year’s property assessments, that means assessors are looking at property sales between Jan. 1, 2008 and Jan. 1, 2009 to determine fair market value as of Jan. 1, 2009. That works fine in an ordinary real estate market -- but this is not an ordinary market. Property values have plummeted in the past year or two, with foreclosures and short sales flooding the market and depressing prices for ordinary home sales. An assessment based on prices in early 2008 may no longer be accurate.

At the same time, homeowners are being financially squeezed in other ways. For one thing, the drop in property values means many are “underwater” or have lost equity in their homes, making it hard to refinance or sell. For another, South Florida currently has an unemployment rate around 10%, and people who do have jobs are seeing reductions in their hours, pay or customers. On top of all this, both Broward and Miami-Dade are proposing a slight increase in property taxes, to close the expected gap in revenue brought on by the drop in property values. Some cities are also raising taxes. Under these circumstances, many homeowners simply can’t afford to let an incorrect assessment stand if it means a substantial increase in property taxes.

Preliminary assessments are already out in both Miami-Dade and Broward, and they will be formally mailed in August. Homeowners who believe the assessed values of their properties are incorrect can file an appeal, to try to have the assessment changed by the November mailing of the final tax bills. That’s where I can step in, as a South Florida property tax assessment appeal attorney.

Appeals of property valuations are heard by a Value Adjustment Board, an administrative body convened by the county. You are free to have a Miami property tax assessment appeal lawyer represent you at this hearing -- and as with many other legal proceedings, it’s a good idea. For one thing, the law explicitly stacks the deck against homeowners by presuming the county’s assessment is correct, which means the burden of proof is on you. For another, if you lose your hearing and wish to appeal it, your next step is to file a lawsuit in civil court. And the deadlines for all of this paperwork are very short -- for example, you have just 25 days from the mailing of your appraisal to appeal it in Miami-Dade. Hiring a Fort Lauderdale property tax assessment appeal lawyer can prevent you from missing those deadlines and losing your right to contest a bad appraisal.

In exchange for this service, my office will charge a percentage of the savings we win for you. As with all of our fees, I will explain this in advance and give you a chance to ask any questions you might have. I believe this service could be extremely valuable for homeowners who receive tax bills based on property values that were accurate 18 months ago but are overly optimistic now. For families who are already struggling financially, an inaccurate property tax bill is just another blow they don’t need.