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Assessment Appeals Paying Off For Some Old Town Property Owners

Tens of thousands of property owners who got socked with huge real estate tax assessments in the 2018 triennial reassessment of the city of Chicago are starting to see results on their appeals to the Cook County Board of Review.

In 2018, many of the reassessed properties were hit with increases ranging from a manageable 12% to an excessive 112%, according to a spot survey by The Home Front column.

Some 65,000 homes, townhomes and small apartment buildings were reassessed in North Township, along with 5,000 condominiums. The assessment level is 10% of market value for residential property.

Early results of the appeals look like a mixed bag. Some Old Town and Lincoln Park property owners who protested the hikes won assessment deductions ranging from about 10% to 22% from the Board of Review. However, others who appealed received zero reductions.

In Old Town, former Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios hiked the estimated fair market value of a vintage 3-flat an amazing 93% to $1,973,610 from $1,021,100. The property owner filed an appeal at the Board of Review and won a 21.4% decrease, which lowered the estimated fair market value to $1.55 million.

However, the assessment level is still up a whopping 71.6% after the successful appeal. The 2017 real estate tax bill on the building was $21,981. The 2018 first installment of the bill was $12,089. The owner expects bill rise substantially when the second installment is due August 1st.

Similar properties in the Old Town neighborhood received 2018 reassessment increases of only 28% to 34% and could be good comparables.

Michael Griffin, a Chicago real estate tax appeal attorney, said the Old Town property owner may have a case for a further assessment reduction by filing an appeal at the court of last resort—the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board in Springfield.

However, the state appeal board is backed up with thousands of appeals, and a ruling could take two years assuming a property owner can meet all of the required stipulations and provide data on comparable sales, a recent appraisal, or a legal brief challenging the inaccurate assessment.

Here is another example of property reassessment reduction in Old Town. In 2018, former assessor Berrios set the 2018 estimated fair market value on a historic red brick 6-flat near Crilly Court at $1,373,510, up 34% from $1,022,100. The assessed value jumped to $137,351 from $102,210.

The property owner filed an appeal at the Board of Review and won a 10.44% decrease, which lowered the estimated fair market value to $1.23 million. Paid in 2017, the 2016 tax bill on the property was $20,708. Despite the reduction, the owner expects bill rise when the second installment is due August 1st.

Old Town and Lincoln Park aren’t the only neighborhoods that were whacked with sharply higher reassessments.

In 2018, former assessor Berrios raised the fair market value of a Logan Square graystone 3-flat 72.8% to $732,630 from $424,010. The assessed value jumped to $73,263 from $42,401. The property owner filed an appeal at the Board of Review and received no reduction.

The Board of Review, a three-member quasi-judicial body that hears property tax appeals, ruled on a record 245,000 appeals of 2018 assessments.

In Chicago, the 2018 expected property tax bill increases will come on August 1st, when the second installment of the bill arrives. “The property tax bill is determined by four factors: the assessment, the equalization factor, or ‘multiplier,’ the tax rate and the exemptions,” said Griffin.

Homeowners also should review their exemptions because they can reduce their tax bill if they have the proper exemptions, Griffin noted. The three main exemptions are the Homeowner’s, Senior Citizen, and Senior Freeze.

The Homeowner’s exemption recently was increased to $10,000 from $7,000, and the Senior Exemption was hiked to $8,000 from $5,000. Those amounts are deducted from equalized assessed value of a home to which tax rates are applied to determine individual tax bills.

Also, more seniors are qualified for the Senior Freeze because the Illinois Legislature increased the maximum annual income to receive the freeze to less than $65,000 from less than $55,000.

“Every homeowner should review their last tax bill to see if they received the proper exemptions and contact the assessor if the exemptions are wrong,” Griffin advised. However, predicting a hefty property tax increase really centers on two wild cards—the tax rate and the state equalization factor, which can’t be challenged by taxpayers.

The equalization factor, or “multiplier,” is established each year for Cook County to bring property tax assessments in line with other parts of Illinois. The value is determined by the Illinois Department of Revenue.

The main engine that drives up property tax bills is the amount of money spent by local government. For example, homeowners who read their 2018 tax bills will see the continued increased spending for schools and police, firefighter and teacher pensions.

Property owners who think they are over-assessed should file an appeal, Griffin advises.

To start the appeal process, visit the assessor’s website:, or call 312-443-7550 to find comparable properties. Property owners also can file an appeal with the Cook County Board of Review (312-603-5542) or, and the Illinois Property Tax Appeals Board (217-785-6076), or

For advice and representation, call Michael Griffin, an expert tax assessment lawyer, at 312-943-1789.

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

“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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