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Triennial Reassessment Hitting City this Year

Those of us who live in Cook County, Illinois, know that our real estate is reassessed every three years.  Well, for those Cook County residents who live in the City of Chicago, this is the year (the south and west suburban townships experienced it last year, and the north and northwest townships will be reassessed next year).

Most Chicago property owners already have gotten the bad news in the mail from the assessor’s office.  Some have seen astonishing increases – more than double in some cases.

Because the Cook County property tax system is so confusing, remember that these are not tax bills.  Tax bills are based, in part, on the value of a property and the reassessment sets that value.  Tax bills founded on the new re-evaluation won’t arrive until 2013, as Cook County residents pay real estate taxes in arrears (a year behind).

The tax bill every Cook County homeowner will get in late summer of this year is the second installment on the 2011 tax bill and isn’t connected to the current city reassessment.

What can a property owner do about the reassessed value if one feels that the reassessment is unfair?  One can appeal to the assessor’s office.  But be aware that the deadline for appeal has, in some cases, already passed.

Property owners also can use the assessor’s Web site (www.cookcountyassessor.com) to obtain the assessed valuation, information about appeals, as well as well as information about the homeowner’s exemption, the senior citizens exemption and the senior citizens assessment freeze.  The website has property assessment information on the homes of neighbors, information that is quite valuable in making an appeal, especially on the grounds of uniformity (whereby you claim your property is assessed higher than your neighbor’s property).

One of the forms the assessor sends out with the reassessment allows you to make a simple challenge based on the “property characteristics” section in the notice.  If the description of your home given in that section is inaccurate in a significant way, challenge it via the form.  But beware: discrepancies in the number of fireplaces or bathrooms probably will come to naught.  But noting major errors in building or land square footage might be successful.

If you strike out with the assessor’s office, you still have another chance to impact that assessed valuation.  First, a property owner can appeal to the Board of Review (www.cookcountyboardofreview.com), a separate governmental body with its own appeals process (and this can be done even if you did not file an appeal with the assessor’s office).  As you might guess, there are deadlines for this type of appeal as well, and they are listed on the website.  The Board handles hundreds of thousands of appeals, the majority of property owners who took this route won relief in tax savings, according to Board figures.

Finally, if you’re still unhappy with your reassessment, there’s the state’s Property Tax Appeals Board.  You can find out more information on their website (www.state.il.us/agency/ptab).

(Note: The information in this article is intended to be general in nature. Plan to discuss your particular circumstances with an attorney for how this might apply to you.)