In a recent blog post I shared that it was time to think about filing an annual tax assessment appeal.  The new common level ratio (CLR) for 7/1/15 – 6/30/16 is 1.29, up slightly from last year’s 1.26.

CLR is the factor you apply to your property’s assessed value to determine fair market value.  For example, a property that is assessed at $100,000.00 should have a fair market value of $129,000.00.  If the fair market value is actually below that, you should consider filing a tax assessment appeal.  That deadline is fast approaching on August 1, 2015.

The significance of the property assessment is that it serves as the basis to calculate school, county and municipal taxes.  By multiplying your assessed value times the millage rate, you will know the annual taxes on your property.  You can find the applicable millage rate for those taxes as updated to include to 2014 and 2015/2016 school taxes on Lancaster County’s website.

Christina Hausner is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, PA.  She received her law degree from Duquesne University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas.

It is that time again to start thinking about whether you want to file an assessment appeal challenging the assessed value of your real estate.  Property taxes are based on the assessed value of real estate, and the assessed value of the real estate should reflect the fair market value.  In Lancaster County, these appeals are heard annually in the fall, and the deadline for filing is August 1.  Last year, on August 5, we had an initial inquiry from someone about filing an appeal and had to explain that while an appeal could be filed at any time, only appeals filed by the deadline of August 1 would be heard and decided in that year.

Another reason to start thinking about this now is to allow sufficient time to obtain an appraisal of your property. Because the property owner must provide credible evidence that the assessment is out of line with fair market value, generally a relatively current appraisal or recent arms’ length purchase is necessary to support your appeal.

Last July, I blogged on how to know whether an assessment appeal is warranted and how the predetermined common level ratio (CLR) is the factor that is applied to the assessed value to correlate to fair market value.  Right now, the CLR is 1.26 but new ratios will be issued early in July.  Usually, it is a modest change, and for the purposes of deciding whether an appeal is warranted, we use the 1.26 ratio currently in effect.

If you have questions about the assessment appeal process, call or email us as soon as possible so that we can do what needs to be done by end of next month.

Christina Hausner is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, PA.  She received her law degree from Duquesne University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas.

The deadline for challenging your 2014-2015 Lancaster County property assessment is August 1, 2014.  Appeals filed after August 1, 2014 won’t be heard until 2015 and won’t take effect until 2016.  And if you are relying upon an appraisal to support your appeal, the written appraisal report must be filed with the Lancaster County Assessment Office by August 15, 2014.  This means the time to act is now.

How do you know whether an assessment appeal is warranted?  We look at the current assessment, the common level ratio, the current total tax millage rate and evidence of current fair market value.  Current assessments and property account numbers are posted online. (The property account number, and in some cases, the assessment, is listed on recently issued school district real estate tax notices.)  The common level ratio (CLR) is the factor applied to the assessment that converts the assessed value into fair market value. As of July 1, 2014, the common level ratio increased to 1.26. Total tax millage rates now include 2014-2015 school district taxes.     

Property owners should multiply their assessment by the CLR (1.26) to see if the fair market value is accurate. For example, an assessment of $100,000 implies a fair market value of $126,000 [$100,000 times 1.26]. 

Continue Reading Countdown for Annual Tax Assessment Appeal Filing

Do you think you’re paying too much in real estate property taxes?  Other than lobbying your school board, municipal leaders and county commissioners, there is not much you can do about the millage rate.  It may be time to review and possibly appeal your property assessment. 

Once a year, Lancaster County provides taxpayers the opportunity to challenge their assessment.  The deadline for filing is August 1.  You may need an appraisal to support your argument that your assessment is too high.  The time to get that is now.  Supporting appraisals should be submitted no later than August 15. 

See my blog from last year to help you determine whether filing an assessment appeal makes sense for you. Generally, if you can prove that the fair market value of your property is less than 1.27 times your assessment, an appeal has merit.  (Although the common level ratio will change July 1, you can still utilize the 1.27 factor for the purpose of making projections.) 

If you have questions, or need to connect with an appraiser who is familiar with the assessment appeal process, please call or email us, but do so soon so that we can get your appeal in under the August 1 deadline.

Christina Hausner is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, PA. She received her law degree from Duquesne University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas.

Starting next week, filing an assessment appeal in Lancaster County will cost $25 for almost all residential property owners. The 2012 fees for annual farm property and commercial property appeals will be $50 and $75, respectively.

The purpose of the new fees is to cover administrative costs generated by the appeal process. The fees are comparable to those imposed in Dauphin and Chester Counties, where the residential appeal fees are also $25. While the fee is new in Lancaster County, it is still a fraction of the cost of many civil action fees, which can add up to hundreds of dollars. For example, filing a civil action to challenge a decision by the Board of Assessment Appeals will be $158 in 2012.

The Lancaster County Property Assessment webpage has more information on the appeal process in the County. In addition, it is always beneficial to seek the guidance of an attorney if you are considering filing an assessment appeal. Our firm regularly represents residential and commercial clients.

Last week Derek Dissinger wrote about the changes to the Lancaster County common level ratios that went into effect on July 1. Another good date to remember in relation to the common level ratio changes is August 1, which is the due date for property tax assessment appeals.

The common level ratio (CLR) is important to property tax assessment appeals in that it is used most often to check the accuracy of the assessment against a recently obtained appraisal. We apply the CLR to the appraised value to see where the assessment ought to be. Taking the total millage rates for school, municipal and county, and multiplying them by the existing assessment and the assessed value we believe to be more accurate based on the appraisal, yields the annual tax burden. By comparing the two, we can estimate the annual savings that would result from obtaining a reduced assessment, and make an informed decision about the cost effectiveness of an appeal. In my previous article, Falling Real Estate Values Offer Opportunity for Property Tax Savings, I use my own home purchase to show how an appeal can create a substantial tax savings.

Most often, a recent appraisal, or a recent sale or purchase, of the property is necessary to establish fair market value. Again, the deadline to file assessment appeals is August 1, so if you would like some information about whether it makes sense for you to pursue, contact our office. 

Christina Hausner is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Duquesne University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas including Real Estate.

Every year, the Lancaster Commercial and Industrial Real Estate Council hosts High Real Estate‘s review of the local commercial and industrial real estate market. High always presents an extensive, well-researched and thought-out presentation. In addition to just showing charts and graphs, the speakers from High really understand the Central Pennsylvania market and are willing to share their thoughts on what the numbers mean.

When I go to this presentation each year, I ask myself, “What would I tell a client who was not here to watch the presentation?”  This year, the ideas that stuck with me are:

1. If I could invest in any real estate, I’d want to own existing apartments or warehouses in places like Lancaster County.

One of the speakers mentioned that pre-COVID, the average daily work commute was around 30 minutes.  Today, it is an hour.  He explained that as more people are spending fewer days in the office and working more from home, some people do not mind making a longer commute a few days a week.
Continue Reading New Trends in Lancaster’s Commercial and Industrial Real Estate

In Part 4 of this series, I discussed how the Automatic Stay stops collection efforts against Unit Owners. In this entry, I want to go through a typical timeline for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case — mostly from the Association’s perspective. I do not intend this to be an exact breakdown of the Bankruptcy Court’s filing deadlines and procedures. Rather, this is more of a general, “what to expect” timeline.

Before I do so, remember that when a Unit Owner files for Bankruptcy, they usually have debts that they cannot pay without that help. In our situation, it usually means that they are far behind on their mortgage and/or assessments. Very often, a Unit Owner files for Bankruptcy to stop a foreclosure by the Bank or the Association. When a Unit Owner files for Bankruptcy, they often owe thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to the Association and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the mortgage company.
Continue Reading Condominiums, Homeowners’ Associations and Bankruptcy: The Lifecycle of a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

In the last installment of the series, I went through some of the terms that Associations need to know when a Unit Owner files for Bankruptcy.  This edition will talk about the “Automatic Stay” and how it affects Creditors like an Association. The first thing to remember is that Bankruptcy is a way to allow people who have debts to get a fresh start.  The Automatic Stay gives Debtors some cooling off time.  It is a period where Debtors do not have to worry about anyone trying to collect against them.

How Does an Automatic Stay Limit Collections?

When someone files for Bankruptcy, they automatically get protected by an Automatic Stay.  Basically, the Automatic Stay stops all actions against the Debtor. The Automatic Stay prohibits anyone from starting or continuing any kind of legal action against a Debtor that does any of the following:
Continue Reading Condominiums, Homeowners’ Associations and Bankruptcy: The Automatic Stay

Has your Board, especially if it has a financial professional on it, ever looked with dismay at the low interest that a Capital Reserve Fund is earning?  They may think that if they could get a better return on that Reserve Fund, then they could do more projects.  Or they could reduce assessments.

This is when they ask about investing the Reserve Funds. Some of the questions that I get the most are:

  • How can an Association invest their capital reserve funds?
  • Does the Association need to keep its money in CDs?
  • Can it invest in the market to get a better return?

Continue Reading Can an Association Invest Its Capital Reserve Funds?