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Seeking Property Tax Relief For Pennsylvania Homeowners

Despite an economic downturn and recession, homeowners in Allegheny County should be celebrating — based on a recent tax reassessment, properties in Allegheny's 130 municipalities rose in value an average of 35 percent. Residential property value increased overall by almost 30 percent and commercial property by over 50 percent. Unfortunately, the reassessed values don't necessarily equal what a homeowner could sell his or her property for in this market.

Already, the real estate assessments in Allegheny County have lead to more than 35,000 appeals by homeowners throughout the county. For some residents, the reassessment of their home has meant that staying put is no longer affordable. At a recent town hall meeting, one resident noted that her home was reassessed for 60 percent more than before. Homes were last assessed in 2002.

Why a Reassessment Now?

The reassessment of Allegheny County properties was required by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after a taxpayer lawsuit established that the assessments in use were inaccurate and did not fairly spread the burden of funding local government and schools. Although the reassessment has not stopped complaints by homeowners who still feel they've been unfairly assessed, officials have no intention of seeking another reassessment.

Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Executive, noted at the Town Hall meeting that there will not be another reassessment. The last one ate up $11 million of taxpayer money already. Allegheny County homeowners have until April 2 to file an appeal of their reassessment.

Should You File an Appeal of Your Real Estate Assessment?

If your home has been assessed for more than you would be able to sell it, you should file a formal appeal. You should check the accuracy of the county's information regarding your property and make changes to incorrect information such as the number of bedrooms, square footage, number of bathrooms and other details.

Take a look at other homes that are similar to yours — are the assessed values similar? This is accessible through the comparables tab on the county's website and should include homes sold between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010. If your house was assessed higher than comparable properties, you should consider a formal appeal. If there are comparable homes that sold for less than what is listed on the website, you should collect that information as evidence of a mis-assessment as well.

A Pennsylvania tax assessment attorney can assist you with appealing the assessed value of your home as well. Do not miss the deadline to file an appeal; once scheduled, do not miss your hearing date. At the hearing you will be allowed to present evidence as to why you believe your home's value was over-assessed. The hearing officer will then make recommendations to the Board of Property Assessment & Review, which will ultimately decide if your home has been over-assessed.

If you still do not agree with the assessed value of your home, you can contest it by appeal to the Court of Common Pleas.

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