One of the duties of the County Commission is to act as 1/3 of – or make a political appointment to – the County Board of Revision (BoR) who has power over the amount of taxes you pay each year on your real estate in Hamilton County. In recent years under Republican “leadership” municipalities, counties and school districts have been strapped for cash to pay for essential government services. As a result, local taxes like real estate taxes have been on the rise. This is yet another example of Republican hypocrisy, saying they’re against taxes, but taking action to lower their own overall taxes while raising your overall taxes. Yesterday long-time Hamilton County Auditor Rhodes, who acts as or appoints another 1/3 of the BoR, blew the whistle on the outrageous property taxes we face here in Hamilton County.
None of the following is legal advice; I am not a lawyer, lawyers should have no place in politics, laws or procedures may have changed since I wrote this article, etc. Use at your own risk.
Each year you have a short window of time, January 1 through March 31, to file a “complaint” with the County Auditor regarding the valuation of your property. A guide to filing this complaint and presenting your case is available on the Auditor’s website. You are only allowed to complain once in each three year tax rate period; the next complaint period begins in 2015. Complaints refer to the previous year, so this means a 2015 complaint looks backwards at your 2014 tax rate. It also means you can complain in 2014 about your 2013 rate (2010-2013 period), and again in 2015 about your 2014 rate (2014-2016 period). But if you do so, you won’t be able to complain a third time until 2018.
While it’s not ideal as it costs even more of your hard earned money, my best advice is to hire a professional appraisal of your property. A professional appraiser will run comparables for you, saving you time and giving you a valid argument for your case. They should include their qualifications (resume) for you to attach as evidence in your case. What happens after you file a complaint is that the Auditor’s staff appraiser will review your evidence and craft a prejudiced response in favor of not reducing your tax rate (but hey, he’s just doing his taxpayer-funded job). This staff appraiser will sit in on your hearing and while he is fully aware of all comparables, he will exclude this information from his testimony as the burden of proof is incorrectly placed on the taxpayer. The only evidence the Board of Revisions will consider is SALES of comparable properties OR proof of major structural defects. A comparable property should be in the same school district, have similar square footage and be of similar style (e.g. be a ranch if your home is a ranch). A defect argument should include a professional estimate for the needed repair.
Now the enterprising citizen can do a comparable search on his or her own. There are sources online to find information on recent home sales, such as Zillow, the County Auditor website, or the Cincinnati MLS. One note of caution on Zillow: the BoR, in a subsidy to the real estate “profession,” refuses to consider algorithmic estimates like the Zestimate®. You may only use the last sale price of comparable properties as evidence, and you should use several, as the BoR will throw out as many as possible for the flimsiest of reasons.
You can find the latest Real Property Complaint Form on the Hamilton County Auditor website shortly after the first of each year. Best of luck in your filings.