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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Property Tax Battle...Lost

I lost a major battle against the Harris County Appraisal District today.

When I first bought my house, my house was appraised at $191,852 by the Appraisal District. I received the 2006 protest notice in the middle of 2007. I did not end up protesting the 2006 appraised value because I had never protested taxes before, I had one month to respond, I trusted it was fair, and I ended up letting it go. Approximately one month later, I received a protest notice for 2007. They had increased my Market Value to approximately $210,000.

I decided to look into what everyone else on the street was paying, and I was astonished to find out I was being appraised at a higher value, per square foot, than anyone on my street. I found 3 homes, nearly identical to my home, on my street, which were being appraised at around $150,000 ($60,000 less than mine). I went to the Appraisal District to protest my taxes (which is a whole other story), and I was able to get my appraised value reduced to $154,700. Major victory!...I guess...if you consider paying less unfair, arbitrary taxes (at the point of a gun) a victory.

This year (2008) my appraised Market Value went back up to $210,000, and my Appraised Value increased to $170,000 (they can only increase the Appraised Value 10% per year). So...I went back to the Appraisal District to protest, armed with the appraised values of the same three houses I used last year, which were now appraised at around $155,000. I don't know WHO they know, but their appraised values only increased a few thousand dollars, while mine increased $60,000.

I was also armed with the argument that I should not have to pay more than other people with similar houses. I told them it was an unfair and unequal assessment, according to their own rule for equal and uniform taxation...

I told them I was not arguing the appraised value based on fair market value; I was arguing the appraised value based on equal and uniform taxation. I presented the evidence that the other, identical homes in my neighborhood were being appraised at $155,000, and there should be no reason why my home should be appraised at a higher value than theirs. You would not believe what they told me...

They told me that I had a good point...the other houses WERE being appraised at a much lower rate, and those homes WERE nearly identical to my home. But they told me, if they decreased my appraised value to the same level as theirs (equal and uniform), then other people would want their value reduced also. They told me it would cause a chain reaction, and everyone would end up getting their appraised values reduced.

They also told me, instead of making my appraised value equal and uniform with the lowest appraised values on my street, they would take the average of all the appraised values on my street, and they would give me THAT value, per square foot. I reiterated that equal and uniform meant that I would not be assessed at a higher rate than someone else with a similar property. They ignored me and gave me a receipt for a Market Value of $183,000 and an Appraised Value of $170,000 (the same as it was when I went in). I said, "this is not fair and equal." They gave me a 'we don't care' look, and I had no choice but to take the screwing like a man and leave.

What am I going to do if I don't like what MY appraisal district does to me? Go to another appraisal district? I CAN'T; THEY HAVE A MONOPOLY ON SCREWING ME! They can be as unfair, rude, and irresponsible as they want to be, and I have NO recourse.

I'm now on a personal mission to compile information about the appraisal districts and their unfair practices, which may help other people fight their property taxes. If you have stories, complaints, tips, or tricks, please e-mail them to me, and I'll post them on this blog. Spread the word.

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