This year property owners in Chicago and the Collar Counties are receiving notices from the County Assessor indicating their property’s new assessment. Property owners should consider appealing this new assessment to lower their future property taxes. If you live in an association, file your tax appeal as a group with the other members. This article will discuss the benefits of a group appeal and the appeal process in general.

Illinois law allows a Condominium Association’s Board to file a single tax appeal on behalf all unit owners (ref. 765 ILCS 605/10(c), 765 ILCS 605/18.4(p)). There is a bill pending in Springfield extending this authority to Boards of Homeowners Associations (HB3479). As of now, to file as a group in a homeowners association, individual owners need to execute opt in forms granting the Board the authority to appeal as a group.

Notwithstanding legal authority to do so, group appeals for associations is the favored method of appealing your property tax assessment. County Assessors prefer one appeal from associations for three main reasons:

  1. It is administratively easier to process one appeal as opposed to a multitude if each owner filed separately.
  2. The County Assessors place a single value on the entire building or development and reviewing that value is facilitated by an appeal including all units.
  3. The County Assessor has a duty to uniformly assess all units within an association. The group appeal enables the County Assessor to meet this obligation.

Despite taxes being one of the “certainties” in life (I won’t mention the other), it doesn’t mean you cannot mitigate its impact at least in the realm of property taxes.

The property tax assessment represents what the County Assessor thinks your property is worth debased by a designated assessment level. In Cook County, residences are assessed at 10% of fair market value. This means that a condominium unit or any residence within an association worth $300,000 should be assessed at $30,000. In the Collar Counties, all property regardless of type (i.e. residential or commercial) is assessed at 33.33% of fair market value. Therefore, a $300,000 condominium unit (residential or commercial) in the Collar Counties would carry an assessment of $100,000.

If the County Assessor’s value opinion is wrong as reflected in the property tax assessment, it should be challenged by means of an appeal. The reason being is that a successful assessment appeal reduces the property taxes paid going forward. The property tax assessment is the main figure utilized to calculate the property tax bill. To calculate the tax bill, the County Treasurer multiplies the assessment, the equalizer(s) and the local tax rate by each other (Taxes = Assessment x Equalizers x Local Tax Rate). Lowering the property tax assessment reduces the future tax bill arithmetically.

Assessment appeals start at the Assessor’s Office. Cook County affords taxpayers the ability to file formal complaint within 30 days of the township publishing the new assessment. The process is more informal in the Collar Counties at the Assessor level. The local township assessors will discuss lowering the assessment at the taxpayer’s request when the assessments
are published, but no actual appeal is filed.

After the Assessor decides the matter, taxpayers can next appeal their property tax assessment to the County Board of Review. The Board of Review appeal is more formal both in Cook and the Collar Counties. The Board of Review has stricter appeal rules and will hold hearings on assessment appeals. When the Board of Review issues a decision, the taxpayer can file a further appeal to either the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board (PTAB) or the Circuit Court of the County.

The Board of Review, PTAB and Court require condominium associations to be represented by licensed attorneys in an assessment appeal before their offices. These agencies follow Illinois Supreme Court precedent stating that tax assessment appeals constitute the practice of law. In re Yamaguchi, 118 Ill.2d. 417, 515 N.E.2d 1235, 113 Ill.Dec. 928, (1987). Condominium associations are not considered “persons” under Illinois law and thus need a licensed attorney to represent them in any legal proceeding. This includes property tax assessment appeals.

Therefore, avoid hiring a “tax consultant” or having one of the members file an appeal on behalf of the entire association. This appeal would be voided and might cost the association the ability to re-file with legal counsel if the appeal deadline has expired. Currently, homeowner associations cannot file as group to these agencies pending the resolution of HB3479 mentioned earlier by an attorney or otherwise.

Association assessment appeals require careful analysis and preparation. They should be filed as a group on behalf of all units to streamline the process, provide benefits to all unit owners and ensure uniformity of taxation within the association. There are several agencies and levels in which to appeal. Each one comes with its own caveats and pitfalls. Associations therefore need skilled legal counsel to steer them through this process. When you receive your 2015 property tax assessment notice, request that your Board hire a competent attorney in this field to represent the association in the appeal.

Ready to appeal your property tax assessment? KSN can help. No reduction = No fees. Contact Attorney Timothy Jacobs at 847-777-7270 or tjacobs@ksnlaw.com.

By Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit Attorney Timothy Jacobs