Properties in Mt. Lebanon, as all other municipalities in Allegheny County, were reassessed in 2013 by Allegheny County.
After the reassessment, many homeowners appealed, citing over assessment. Mt. Lebanon, in the interest of equity across all residential property, investigated appealing under assessed properties.
Ideally, counties across Pennsylvania would reassess all properties on a regular basis, but that does not happen. “Reassessments should happen every three years,” says Mt. Lebanon Finance Director Andrew McCreery. “We waited 11 years in Allegheny County, and we’re not sure when the next one will be. Washington County is still using 1981 as a base year.”
With the intention of capturing the most recent market values, Mt. Lebanon decided to appeal the property assessments of 156 houses sold in 2013, and another 138 sold between 2006-2010. The municipality is not appealing the assessments of all houses sold during these time frames, only of houses that sold for a much greater price than their assessed valuation.
Specifically, the properties that are being appealed: sold for more than $100,000; show a difference of at least $58,000 between the sale price and the assessed value, and the ratio between the assessed value and the sale price was 80 percent or less.
For example, a house with an assessed value of $145,100 sold in 2013 for a price of $415,000 has a $269,900 difference between assessed value and sale price, meaning the assessed value is now only 35 percent of the sale price. This house is one of the 156 2013 cases that Mt. Lebanon is appealing. There were 375 2013 residential property sales that did not fit the criteria or were below a sale price of $50,000.
“There are avenues of relief if you believe your house is over assessed,” McCreery says. “But this is our only way of evening out the inequity if a house sells for significantly more than its assessed value.”
The last two property reassessments conducted in Allegheny County were in 2002 and 2013. After conducting a reassessment, the county uses all of the home values obtained that year as the “base year” by which all assessments are calculated. From 2002 to 2012, the base year used for newly sold homes was 2002. Currently, the base year is 2013 until the next reassessment.
Once the municipality notifies a homeowner of its intention to appeal the assessment, the county schedules a hearing sometime within the next six months. At the hearing, homeowners may represent themselves or be represented by an attorney, presenting any information relevant to the fair market value of the property. The county then makes a decision to lower the assessment, maintain the current assessment or raise the assessment.
If the property owner is not satisfied with the county’s ruling, the next step in the process is to appear before the Allegheny County Board of Viewers. Of houses sold in 2011 and 2012, Mt. Lebanon appealed 153 sales, 43 of which sent a notice of their intent to go before the Board of Viewers. Many of those cases are still pending.
The board has a large backlog of cases, and an appeal could take years to resolve, says McCreery, adding that, “Going in front of the Board of Viewers is a considerable expense for the municipality, and for the homeowner.”
To learn more about the assessment and appeals process, visit www.county.allegheny.pa.us/opa/index.aspx.