Last week I received a letter from the Supreme Court of Ohio. You can imagine how surprised I was.

The Court’s Dispute Resolution Section scheduled a telephone mediation conference concerning the valuation of a house we owned.

We originally filed a complaint with the Board of Revision (BOR) in 2008 to reduce the property tax bill Columbus home we purchased the year earlier. This house was a short sale, so we purchased it below market value.

The BOR approved our request, but the school board appealed. The case went to the Board of Tax Appeals, and after more hearings, they decided to mediate.

Why do I tell you all of this?

First of all, I want to remind you that winter is the time to file valuation complaints with the board of revisions. The deadline is March 31, for the previous year. You can download the necessary forms at the Franklin County Auditor’s website.

What’s my Chance of Getting the Taxes Lowered?

We filed many complaints over the past 7 years on rental properties we purchased in foreclosure. Based on our experience, your chances of successfully getting your taxes lowered are very good, if you purchased the house below market value and present your closing statement (HUD-1) to the BOR.

Second, you have to be reasonable. If you request a reduction of more than 25%, the school board will automatically appeal, even if the BOR approves your request.

Columbus City Schools employ numerous lawyers that do nothing but appeal property tax reductions. They fight to keep your taxes high and get more money for the schools. They are a formidable opponent. Their attorneys will do anything to get your complaint or appeal thrown out by the court, even for small formal errors.

That’s why it is advisable to hire an experienced attorney to file the complaint for you.

You can do it yourself, especially, if you file the request for your primary residence and you have a HUD-1 to prove the lower purchase price. The BOR will usually side with you. However, be prepared to defend your lower valuation at the Board of Appeals.

How Long Does It Take?

You have to be patient. Many home owners file appeals this year, because real estate values have dropped. This process may take a year, maybe longer, if an appeal is filed.

The case I mentioned at the beginning of this post was filed in 2008.  Four years later it is in mediation.

We sold this property a couple of years ago. So for us the mediation came too late …

Tips for Appealing the Property Tax Valuation of your Home

  • The initial complaint needs to be filed with the Board of Revision (BOR).
  • The Board of Revisions usually accepts the HUD-1 purchase price as the value of your home.
  • Bring a low appraisal from a short sale, if you can get one.
  • Keep in mind that the BOR is not your nemesis – the school board is.
  • The school board always files an appeal, if you request a reduction by more than 25%.
  • Neither the school board nor the BOR will order an appraisals to prove their point. It’s up to you.
  • The school board will try to have your case dismissed due to formal errors, e.g. if you file the request as representative of a company or trust.
  • The school board will try to portray the sale as a distress sale, that’s not representative of values in the area.
  • The whole process takes years: 1 year for the BOR, another year to the Board of Tax Appeals (BOTA, …)