Saturday, July 29, 2006

Fight the power

After a 3 month battle through the mail, I finally had my protest hearing for my property tax with the central appraisal district...and won.

This was the first time I've ever done something like this. I protested my property appraisal once before, but we settled through the mail. This time I went all the way to an actual hearing with the actual appraisal board.

Basically, the Central Appraisal District (CAD) was trying to con me into thinking that my house was the most valuable one on the block.

Bull shit.

The way it works: every year the CAD reviews every property throughout the county and determines what they think the properties are worth. Then they tax you, the owner. The more your property is worth, the more tax you pay. It's how they raise revenue. And I discovered that a property owner like myself can actually fight this. You have to, of course, do your homework and present yourself like a respectful human and not some tax-avoiding hill-billy.

I looked up the tax appraisals for 14 houses that surround mine on my street and did an average. Not only were they proposing that mine was the highest appraised (thus highest taxed) on the block, but mine was at least 24.4% above the average. On my block there are four houses larger than mine. So, square footage had nothing to do with their assessment.

Also, next door, the Sanford's house is valued the least. How can the most valuable property on the block (mine) be directly next to the least valuable (Sanfords)? In the real estate world, that is an oxymoron.

Then...there's a house across the street that is the exact same floor plan as mine...with the exception of an added bathroom. It's the EXACT same house as mine, but better. The house across the street should be valued the same if not a little more than mine. Their house was, in fact, valued at the average (24% less than mine). The difference being that I keep my yard mowed.

I guess lawn maintenance is equivelent to about $10K on a tax appraisal.

So I presented this reseach before the board, court reporter, the appraiser, and a handful of locals waiting their turn to protest.

I won.

I got exactly what I asked for. My appraisal now what I argued it should be.

All of this to say...I couldn't believe how easy it was to do this. If I can protest the tax appraisal of my house (and WIN), then anyone can do it.

Poor people own property too. Not real good ones. But taxable property none the less.

And all people's property assesment values go up every year at the whims of the appraisers, whether they're rich or poor. Thus, their taxes go up. Believe me...the Sanford's house went up like...$7000 this year. That was about 25% more from the previous year. Their house has not been improved upon at all. Certainly not $7000 worth.

Not only do they not realize they can protest this. They probably don't know it has increased and won't even know about it until they get their January 2007 mortgage payment when the new taxes go in effect. So it goes.

Plus, to protest, you really need quite a few middle-class social and educational skills. The Sanfords and the many like them don't have either.

So...yet another agent b conspiracy theory: the empire taxes the people who are least likely to notice and/or do anything about it.


miller said...

ya know, bullshit is exactly the word i would use too.

I couldn't believe how easy it was to do this. If I can protest the tax appraisal of my house (and WIN), then anyone can do it.

the fact is that you should never have to do this at all!

they CAD just does a drive by and throws some random number out there knowing that 95% of the time nobody is going to protest it and they'll get away with it! this makes me so mad i can't even see straight! if they would just do it the right way, it would be equitable and fair and you would seldom if ever have to take time out of your day to protest unfair taxation.

what if you had to be at work from "can-see" to "can't see"?

what if you have children in day-care and a 50 hr/week job thats going nowhere and bills that pile up till you can't see over the top and some dinky little non-descript notification of appraisal value.

its theft.

the taxes on my house actually went down...

how do ya figure that one?


(not that i'm complainin' about taxes going down ya understand!)

Jason & Nicole said...

Thank you so much for sharing this post. I'm tucking stories like this away in my mind. One day I could be poor . . . or own property . . . or both.

I was just thinking about white/middle-class skills . . . Even with these skills I have (e.g., I can so "No!" to credit card offers), I still get suckered into various gimmicks over the phone (e.g., "Switch to our phone company and save bla bla bla . . ."). I made a commitment the other day that I won't promise any money over the phone; I'm too gullible. If I'm gullible after my enbiable education background, what about those who just went to high school? How do they not get suckered into every salesman and politician?


Mike said...

Man, this is right on. Some of our clients that we have redone their homes have been assesed higher property taxes and they are fighting it. However they are loosing because Santa Cruz county is better organized. They will tie you up in court for decades. No one wins.