Updated december 2023
Six Steps Connecticut Property Owners Should Take in the Event of a Revaluation
Cheshire, Darien, New Canaan and Norwalk are among 44 Connecticut municipalities, listed in our November alert, conducting a general revaluation according to the October 1, 2023 Grand List.
Depending upon the municipality, property owners have either already received their change of assessment notice from their local tax assessor or will be receiving the same within the next month. In a revaluation, the assessor determines the value of every parcel of real property in the municipality as of the October 1 revaluation date.
Connecticut law requires municipalities to conduct a general revaluation at least once every five years. Therefore, in the ordinary course, the assessment established on the revaluation date will be used to determine the taxes to be levied for the next five years. Obviously, taking an appeal immediately after a revaluation maximizes a property owner’s potential tax savings and the importance of challenging a property’s value is emphasized this year given the volatility in the real estate market and in many instances, the shifting of the tax burden from certain market segments to others, e.g. office/retail to multi-family residential/industrial.
The key issue in a property tax appeal is the property’s true value as of the October 1 revaluation date. Even if an assessment has decreased since the last revaluation, an excessive assessment will result in the property owner bearing a disproportionate share of the tax burden.
Local assessors gather property-related data and information on an ongoing basis but ramp up their efforts in the months leading up to a revaluation. If your municipality is conducting a general revaluation for the October 1, 2023 Grand List you will receive a notice of tax assessment change. Once the notices are issued, there may be a chance to meet informally with someone working with the assessor’s office—usually someone from the revaluation company—in order to discuss the new assessed value; however, if a property owner wishes to challenge the assessment formally, a written appeal must be filed with the local Board of Assessment Appeals by the February 20, 2024 statutory deadline. There are some situations where this deadline may be extended, but unless your municipality notifies you of this extension, you should assume that the February 20 deadline applies.
What steps should a property owner take when there has been a revaluation?
1. Watch for a notice from the municipality related to the revaluation. This notice usually contains information on the new assessed value, the opportunity to meet informally with the someone from the assessor's office or revaluation company and the deadline to appeal to the local Board of Assessment Appeals.
2. Review the notice carefully. Does it accurately identify your property? Do you own other parcels for which you did not receive notices? If the assessor’s new value is stated in the notice, do you believe that it reflects the property’s true fair market value as of the most recent revaluation date based on market conditions and property-specific facts?
3. If you believe the new value is too high, assemble information and documentation which supports your position. Recent appraisals, listings for sale and offers to purchase, sales of comparable properties, income and expense statements, leases and the like are all helpful in determining a property’s value. Of course, data close in time to the October 1, 2023 revaluation date will be most relevant.
4. Confer with experienced legal counsel. In consultation with counsel, all matters related to the property’s value as of the revaluation date and appropriate legal and valuation grounds for an appeal will be discussed, and a go-forward strategy will be formulated.
5. Decide whether to attend an informal meeting or to appeal to the Board of Assessment Appeals. Often, factual errors or mistakes may be corrected during an informal meeting with someone from the assessor's office or revaluation company. The formal appeal process, however, begins with filing a written appeal with the Board of Assessment Appeals. Unless extended, the deadline to do so is February 20, 2024, although an appeal should be prepared well in advance of the deadline. Except in unusual circumstances, you will lose the ability to challenge the October 1, 2023 assessment if a timely appeal to the Board is not filed.
6. Once the Board issues its decision, decide whether to appeal to the Superior Court. If a property owner remains dissatisfied with the Board’s decision, the only recourse is to appeal to the Superior Court. A court appeal must be filed within two months of the Board’s decision, or the right to appeal is lost.
As with any contested administrative or court proceeding, the decision as to whether to pursue a tax appeal should not be made lightly. A thoughtful, critical analysis of whether an appeal is warranted in the first instance is essential, and it will usually result in a financial benefit to the property owner, whether an appeal is ultimately pursued or not. Once an appeal is underway, the property owner and counsel must work as a team to prepare a compelling presentation to the Board and if necessary, to the Court, utilizing fact and expert witnesses and documentary evidence to establish that the municipality’s value is excessive, and that the taxpayer’s proposed value is correct.
Murtha Cullina LLP
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)
Updated March 2016
Tax Appeal Settlement Enforced
After engaging in extended settlement discussions, the owner of a shopping center and the City of Waterbury agreed to settle a tax appeal with a verbal understanding which touched all pertinent items. Indeed, a Superior Court noted that “[t]he terms of this agreement could not be clearer. There is no question . . . that the parties clearly understood the basis of an agreement and the impact on each of the parties.”
Well after discussions concluded, the City asserted the lack of authority of its Corporation Counsel to bind the City, especially as to the aspect of the case involving a penalty waiver for nonpayment of taxes. Arguing that Connecticut law and City of Waterbury ordinances did not permit her to waive the penalty, the Corporation Counsel nevertheless “admitted during (oral) argument that other similar penalty assessments may have been settled without specific . . . approval . . . . also.”
Holding that the property owner should not forfeit the benefit of its settlement under these circumstances, its motion to enforce the agreement was granted.