Appealing An Assessment

When Property Owner & Assessor Cannot Agree

The first thing a property owner should do if they do not understand or do not agree with a change in value to their property made by the assessor division is to contact us directly to discuss the matter. As the elected assessor my job is to be fair, not to raise revenue. Our goal is to value each property correctly in relation to similar properties that have undergone a change in ownership, new construction or a decline in value at about the same time.

We often recommend that the owner file a protective Assessment Appeal pending our ability to review the value. The deadline for filing an appeal is July 2 – November 30 for the regular assessment roll or 60 days from the date of mailing of a supplemental or escape tax bill. There is a $50 non-refundable fee for filing an appeal.

During these reviews, we often find that the owner understands and agrees with our value and withdraws the protective appeal. In other cases, we agree on an adjustment and, if a protective appeal has been filed, we prepare a stipulation to be approved by the Napa County Assessment Appeals Board (Board). To apply, fill out the Application for Changed Assessment.

Occasionally, after a review, the property owner does not accept the rationale for our value change or we do not believe the additional information the property owner provided us justifies an adjustment to our initial value. In those cases, we ask the local Board, the members of which are professionals from the community, to set a hearing. At the time of the hearing before the Board, we present the “defense” of our appraisal. The Board then decides whether to uphold our value, adopt the owner’s requested value or set a value somewhere in between. The Board also may have the right to raise the value our office had initially enrolled.

The hearings are informal and in most cases, the applicant presents their own case. In more complex appeals, an agent may represent the owner. The agent can be an attorney, a financial professional, a private appraiser or anyone designated in writing by the owner. If the owner wants to reserve their right to go to Superior Court (the next step beyond our local Board), the owner, prior to the commencement of the hearing, must request Findings of Fact, which set forth the reasons for the Board’s decision. There is a fee for preparation of findings.

If a stipulation is agreed to or if the Board establishes a value other than the one initially enrolled by the Assessor, we then prepare one or more roll corrections that usually result in lower values and either a reduced tax bill or a refund if the taxes have been paid. The fact that an appeal is pending does not relieve the owner of the obligation of paying all taxes due on the appropriate due dates.

Should you have any questions please contact Napa County Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk John Tuteur at 707-253-4459 or by e-mail. More articles can be found on the Assessor’s web page.