One of the most comment questions we get at ValueAppeal is, “How long is this going to take?”
Usually, the questioner means from beginning to end, how long will the process take between submitting the appeal and getting a result from the county. The most honest answer is, “It’s hard to say.”
Every county is different in its ability to take on appeals. Some are well staffed, some not so much. Some move quickly, some, again, not so much. So it’s impossible to give a simple answer to that question.
On average, we see a 4-to-6 month wait to hear back from the county. It could be faster, could be much longer, depending on how quickly the county moves through appeals, how well staffed it is, etc. Different places also have different laws for how long it’s allowed to take to get to an appeal. In California, by law, it can legally take two years to get to an appeal. The good news on that front is, if it doesn’t get to the appeal in the allowable two years, the appellant automatically gets the value they asked for.
The appeal window in Maryland closes on Jan. 3 and at that point the 2/3 or property owners eligible to appeal by that date will begin the waiting game.
Like nearly every area of the country, Maryland has seen the number of assessment appeals skyrocket as the real estate market continues to limp along. That creates huge stacks of appeals for each county or locality to get through, and at ValueAppeal we encourage clients to be patient and not get discouraged that the turnaround time can be long. In Maryland, each member of the board of appeals can work up to 30 hours a week so they fit as many appeals in as possible any given week.
According to this Baltimore Sun story, the 24 assessment appeals boards in Maryland expect to have a backlog of almost 8,000 appeals in 2012, covering both commercial and residential properties. That’s an increase of about 4,000 in 2007.
It’s been kind of a perfect storm that has led to the huge rise. The housing market caused property values to drop faster than the taxes. Also, 10 percent of assessors at the state Department of Assessment and Taxation retired in 2011 and, combined with a new computer system, training delayed processing appeals even longer. An average of about nine assessors have retired every year, though the Department of Assessment has hired 16 new ones and plans to hire a few more.
According to the Sun, in 2006 there were about 8,800 appeals. In 2011, there were about 13,000, which is actually down from the 2009 total of 19,500. Prince George’s County had more than 3,000 pending appeals as of November and that number was likely to go up by the end of the year. The various boards heard about 11,000 appeals statewide as of November, about 3,800 more than in 2007.
Kent Finkelsen, administrator of the state appeals board, told the Sun that it should take about four months for an appeal to be heard at the local level, though in some larger counties it can take about six months. But he added that that’s just an average, and that some people can hear back within a month, others as long as 10 months.
In Baltimore County, the Sun said, all board members have full-time jobs, further limiting their time to have hearings. In other counties, the board members are retired so they have more time to meet.
Also, assessors must attend appeal hearings, but with cuts in staff, it’s harder and harder to make the time to do so, leading to delays.
Maryland has seen its assessed values drop in recent years, but that hasn’t stopped the wave of appeals as property owners still believe they’re being treated unfairly.
The state passed a bill in 2011 that allowed Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City to add two alternate members to the appeals board as a way to add more flexibility to potentially hearing dates. But so far, none of the counties have added anyone.
The assessment appeal process can be a frustrating one. ValueAppeal can save property owners days or even weeks of work in putting together a strong appeal, as we help property owners put together a complete, customized appeal package in just 10 minutes. But there’s not much we can do to speed up the time it takes counties to get through appeals. And it can be tempting to simply give up. That’s why we try to reinforce to our clients that no matter what, don’t withdraw your appeal. It might take months to get to you, the county may send you information saying you don’t have a strong case, you may get a call making it tougher. Don’t withdraw! If you were able to use ValueAppeal, that means you have a strong case for appeal, as the only people we help are those who have a strong, legitimate case for appeal. So hang in there, be patient and know that they will eventually get to you.
If you’ve appealed, how long did it take you to work through the process? Was it worth it?