WHEN PROPERTY OWNER AND ASSESSOR CANNOT AGREE
The first thing a property owner should do if they do not
understand or do not agree with a change in value to their property is to
contact the assessor's office directly to discuss the matter. Given the recent
stagnant real estate market, it may also be necessary to contact the assessor
when there has NOT been a change in value, i.e. when the property owner feels
that their value may have declined below the Proposition 13 factored base year
value but no downward reduction in value has been made. As the elected assessor
my job is to be fair, not to raise revenue. Our goal is that each property to be
valued at its correct value in relation to similar properties that have
undergone a change in ownership, new construction or a decline in value at about
the same time.
Since there are deadlines for filing appeals (July 2 -
September 15 for the regular assessment roll or 60 days from the date of notice
if a supplemental or escape assessment), we often recommend that the owner file
a protective appeal pending our ability to review the value. During these
reviews we often find that we can agree on an adjustment; and, if a protective
appeal has been filed, we then prepare a stipulation which is approved by the
Board of Equalization and no hearing is held.
When, after a review, the property owner does not accept the
rationale for our value change or we do not believe the additional information
the property owner brings us justifies an adjustment to our initial value, we
then recommend that the owner pursue the application for changed assessment
(also known as an appeal) with our local Board of Equalization, the members of
which, in Napa County, are the members of the Board of Supervisors. At the time
of the hearing before the Board of Equalization we present the "defense" of our
appraisal which we usually have shared with the property owner who also presents
her case. The Board then decides whether to uphold our value, adopt the owner's
requested value or set a value somewhere in between. The Board also may have the
right to raise the value our office had initially enrolled.
The hearings are informal and in most cases the applicant
presents her own case without needing an attorney, a fee appraiser or any
outside assistance. In the more complex appeals the owner may be represented by
an agent. If the owner wants to reserve their right to go to Superior Court (the
next step beyond our local Board of Equalization), the owner, prior to the
commencement of the hearing, must request Findings of Fact, which set forth the
reasons for the Board's decision. There is a fee for preparation of findings.
If a stipulation is agreed to or if the Board establishes a
value other than the one initially enrolled by the Assessor, we then prepare
roll correction(s) which usually result in lower values and either a reduced tax
bill or a refund if the taxes have all been paid. The fact that an appeal is
pending does not relieve the owner of the obligation of paying all taxes on the
appropriate due dates.
Should you have any questions please contact Napa County
Assessor-Recorder John Tuteur
at 707.253.4459 or by e-mail
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