Once again, the predatory and discriminatory practice of school districts and municipalities appealing new property owner’s assessments is in the news. And once again, it’s bad news for new property owners. As reported here in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story, a local judge once again got it wrong and sided with the taxing bodies. As reported in the article, “Common Pleas Judge Robert J. Colville dismissed a lawsuit filed last year claiming the practice amounted to “de facto spot assessments” and violated the uniformity clause of the state constitution.”
The newcomer’s tax as many like to call it sets a confusing and mis guided precedent. County wide assessment for all owners were recently performed in 2012. Not long after that the school districts began appealing the recent assessments of new sales using the sales price as proof the assessment needed to be adjusted. In our opinion, the state constitution is very clear on this topic. It is re-assessments for all, or for no one. Unfortunately, the courts are not seeing this argument, instead focusing their opinion on the right of each party to appeal and challenge. They are missing the whole argument of the predatory and discriminatory practice of school districts and municipalities targeting new property owners.
They say you can’t fight city hall, and unless you feel like channeling your inner Erin Brockovich then that is probably correct. But what can you do? Always show up for the hearing and contest the appeal. Hire a lawyer to handle it professionally. Will you win? No, but the lawyer will mitigate the damage for you. The lawyer fees will easily be recouped in the first year or two by the tax savings you realize. We have used this firm personally and they did a great job in our case. They take care of everything and you don’t even have to take time off from work and attend the hearing. The fee is very reasonable.
So, what happens if you decide to not show up and contest the challenge? We have heard many stories of full sales price assessments being handed down as judgement. This can affect your monthly mortgage escrow payment by hundreds of dollars. Don’t let this happen to you, show up and fight the taxing bodies. The more it costs them to try your case, the better. Maybe the legal costs will begin to discourage them from challenging every sale that comes across their desks. This editorial, also from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, gets it right.