British Columbia

To appeal or not to appeal? Expert advice for dealing with your new property assessment

B.C. property assessments are out this week — but should you appeal your results?

According to a property tax agent, presenting solid evidence is the key to winning your appeal

Many single family home owners in the Vancouver area saw 2017 property assessment increases of 30 to 50 per cent over the previous year, based on July 1 valuations. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Property assessments became available on the B.C. Assessment website this week — and the increases are substantial.

Single family detached homes jumped 30 to 50 per cent around Metro Vancouver, while strata properties went up 15 to 30 per cent.

The valuations, which are used to determine 2017 property taxes, were taken from July 1, before the province announced its foreign buyers tax and sales began to slow.

The increases have homeowners worried about their property taxes, and some may be considering appealing their assessments.

But should you? 

Property tax agent Paul Sullivan shared some expert advice on how, and whether, you should file an appeal. 

Pro-tip #1: Understand the system

Sullivan said the first step to determining whether you should appeal is making sure you understand how the system works.

"It's not the change in your value which counts — it's the value at July 1st. So just because you went up 30 per cent doesn't merit an appeal in itself. You have to determine whether that value was appropriate at the valuation date," he explained.

There are two arguments for an appeal: either that the assessed market value of your property is too high based on comparable sales, or that you were unfairly assessed in comparison to your neighbours. 

Pro-tip #2: Complaining about tax increases won't help

The connection between your property taxes and your property's value is not as straightforward as some may think. 

The important number isn't the per cent that your assessment increased, but how your property fared relative to others in your property class and local taxing jurisdiction.

For example, a house in Vancouver would be compared to other residential-class properties, including condos, in the city.

"Tax increases have nothing to do with B.C.'s system for evaluating properties and so an argument based on that will get you nowhere in front of a panel," said Sullivan.

Pro-tip #3: Be aware of the risks

Appealing your property assessment could backfire, as a second review of your property might find that you were initially under-assessed.

"Often people experiencing these significant increases have been under-assessed in the past, and they're seeing a bit of catch-up going on," said Sullivan.

It's also important to understand that while the interior and exterior of your house does add value, those features are unlikely to substantially affect the valuations of homeowners living in Metro Vancouver.

"Assessments are based on redevelopment values," Sullivan said. "There's very little relief for the homeowner in the west side of Vancouver because their value is all in the land." 

Pro-tip #4: Do your research

Sullivan said that what matters the most is presenting better evidence than the initial assessor. 

He recommended doing some digging on the e-valueBC website, to compare your assessment to those of your neighbours.

"You have to establish a point of comparison, say price per square foot of house or price per square foot of land and put together a persuasive argument. And if you have evidence, you may win," he said.

The deadline to file an appeal of your property assessment is January 31. 

With files from CBC Radio's On The Coast