Over-Taxed Homeowners Should Appeal Higher 2016 Real Estate Bills

Tens of thousands of Chicago and Cook County homeowners have recently received the second installment of their 2016 property tax bills, and experts say Chicago taxpayers will be required to pay an average increase of 10 percent.

The owner of a single-family home with an average sale price of $224,500 should have received a 2016 property tax bill of $4,000—an increase of $363. The increase will be reflected on the second installment of Cook County property tax bills payable August 1, 2017.

The city of Chicago increased it property tax levy by $109 million this year as part of a planned four-year tax hike which began with the 2015 bills, payable in 2016. In addition, the state legislature approved a $272 million Chicago Public Schools levy increase to pay for teachers’ pensions which took effect this year.

Last year, the 2015 Chicago real estate tax bills reflected a $318 million boost to pay the pensions for police officer and firefighters. Another $45 million went to pay for Chicago Public Schools’ construction projects.

Experts say property owners should battle back by appealing their property’s 2016 assessments.

“In 2016, tens of thousands of property owners had success in filing tax assessment appeals with both the Cook County Assessor and the Board of Review,” said Michael Griffin, a Chicago real estate tax appeal attorney.

Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios urges all property owners to file assessment appeals. Residential appeals filed at the assessor’s office with the help of an attorney has a 53.9% initial success rate in 2016, while those filed without aid of a lawyer had a 55.3% success rate, said Tom Shaer, Cook County Deputy Assessor.

A whopping 370,000 residential appeals were filed in 2015, triple the amount filed in 2003. More than 80% of those who appealed to the Cook County Assessor or the Cook County Board of Review successfully won reductions—and many posted reduction victories at both levels.

An informal survey by The Home Front column revealed the following 2016 assessment reductions won by property owners battling assessment increases on Chicago’s North Side:

• Lincoln Park. The owner of a 6-flat brick apartment building was elated when she won a 12.9% assessment reduction to $105,887 from $121,637. The reduction produced a 5% reduction in taxes—about $1,100—on the second installment 2016 property tax bill.

• Old Town. The owner of a brick Victorian 3-flat in the Old Town Historic District was happy when he won an 8.4% assessment reduction to $108,185 from $118,119. The reduction meant that the owner’s taxes only rose about $24 on the second installment of the 2016 property tax bill.

• North Park. The owner of a single-family frame home on the Northwest Side was pleased when his attorney notified him that the property won a 7.5% assessment reduction to $52,201 from $56,201. The reduction meant an acceptable $142 property tax hike on the second installment of the 2016 bill.

Griffin advises that every property owner who believes they are over-assessed should file an appeal especially if the homeowners believe their house is worth less now than several years ago.

“It is now easier to appeal since all the data about other homes in your neighborhood is online,” Griffin said. “You do not have to go to the library to look up the information or ask your neighbors about their assessment.”

Property owners do not even have to go the county offices to research comparable properties or file an appeal since homeowners can easily file their appeal online at the assessor’s or Board of Review web sites, Griffin noted.

The assessor’s office reassesses the value of each of the 1.8 million parcels of property in Cook County every three years. The reassessment is on a rotating basis among three regions of Cook County—north suburbs, south suburbs, and the city of Chicago.

For residential properties, the assessor has determined the assessment by comparing each property to similar properties in a given area.

What can a property owner do to control real estate assessment increases and tax hikes?

First check how your property’s assessed valuation compares with similar properties in your neighborhood.

Visit the assessor’s website: www.cookcountyassessor.com, or call 312-443-7550 to find comparable properties.

Also check to see if the assessor has listed all the exemptions for which you are eligible, such as the Homeowners Exemption, Senior Citizen Exemption, and Senior Assessment Freeze Exemption. These exemptions can save you hundreds of dollars in taxes.

Two important grounds for a reduction are finding a significant error in the description of your property, or lack of uniformity, which means your home’s assessment is not in line with the assessed valuation of other similar homes in your neighborhood, Griffin said.

The assessor also grants reductions based on the evaluations approach. Homeowners may file an appeal and submit a recent closing statement for their home and/or purchase prices of homes similar to yours to show that the assessed value is greater than 10 percent of the purchase price.

If you feel you have grounds for a reduction, file an appeal with the Cook County Assessor. The appeals can be filed in person at the assessor’s office or at the office’s website.

If an initial appeal at the assessor’s office does not lower the assessed value, there are two other appeal options: the Cook County Board of Review (312-603-5542), and the Property Tax Appeals Board (217-785-6076) in Springfield, IL. Or, call Michael Griffin, a tax assessment lawyer, at 312-943-1789.

For more housing news, visit www.dondebat.biz. Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit www.escapingcondojail.com.

“The book is Escaping Condo Jail by Sara Benson and Don DeBat. I would say that anybody thinking about buying a condo, or even anybody serving on a condo board, or anybody who has any connection to a condo, this is must reading—all 600 and something pages. Thanks a lot for a great book!”


Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

By Don DeBat

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