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New Assessments Clobber Ontario Homeowners

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 30 January 2001 00:00

Taxpayers in North Toronto, the Beach (eastern Toronto) and popular neighbourhoods across the Megacity are reeling from dramatic assessment increases of 40 percent or more. However, City of Toronto officials report that the tax impact of 2001 residential property reassessments will be less than half that experienced from the 1998 reassessment. Ironically, appeals for 1998 are still being heard.

Fifty-nine per cent of the city's 552,696 single-family homeowners are expected to receive a tax decrease, with the average drop estimated at $220, while 41 percent of residential properties, that's 226,913 homes, will experience an increase. City officials compare the projected average increase of $317 for this reassessment with the 44 percent of homes that received an average tax increase of $689 in the 1998 reassessment to say things aren't as bad now.

However, many homeowners disagree and are filing assessment appeals, or plan to, before the March 31 deadline.

If you receive a substantially-increased assessment, wherever your property is located, don't dismiss thoughts of an appeal without looking into the matter further. Although you are one homeowner against the provincial government, you can win your case if you take the time to understand what you have to prove.

Property tax consultant Howard Colt, an accredited appraiser and assessor and principal of Toronto-based Colt Property Tax Group , makes it his business to win property tax appeals for his clients who own commercial real estate or carriage-trade residential properties in Ontario. He wants every property owner to have the opportunity to present a winning case and so he offers a free assessment appeal guide on his site.

"You can win if the factual aspects are in error," states Colt, encouraging property owners to verify details on their property since errors are commonplace. "The assessment department is very quick in correcting factual errors -- not as quick to fix subjective issues."

If property dimensions are incorrect, your property is rated in better condition than it actually is or your home abuts (even if it is separated by a lane way) commercial property, you may be eligible for a decrease in assessment.

Market Value Assessment was introduced with a massive cross-province reassessment in 1998 to settle inequities which had some taxpayers paying too much and others not paying enough tax, according to the provincial government. Assessors acknowledge that, even hiring teams of university students to boost numbers, did not allow assessors to personally evaluate every property in Ontario, or Toronto, and so inaccuracies exist. The recent shift to Current Value Assessment has not rectified any existing assessment errors.

"The assessment computer program relates all variables -- location, size, finished basement, number of bathrooms, number of bedrooms, quality of construction, age, approximately 140 variables -- to value," explained Colt. "It works well in homogeneous cookie-cutter neighbourhoods, but where you have neighbourhoods with a wide variety of property types, the system does not work as well.

"You can win if you take a handful of sales -- six similar properties -- and relate them to the subject [your property]," explains Colt, who suggests homeowners stay off the topic of garbage pick-up, busy streets and other service complaints and avoid using the appeal hearing to rant about high taxes or municipal government."

Stick to assessment to win your case, says Colt.

The Government of Ontario transferred responsibility for property assessment to the Ontario Property Assessment Corporation (OPAC) . OPAC may provide details on assessments and information on similar properties for your case.

For more articles by P.J. Wade, please press here .

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