Just like everything else in the Lone Star State, property taxes tend to be a bit bigger in Texas. There's also a lot of confusion about how the property tax system works. While most property owners would like to avoid the nuisance of paying the taxes, there's typically no getting around it. County appraisal districts like the Harris County TX Appraisal District are responsible for appraising property. But, how exactly do they operate? And, do they take unequal appraisal into consideration?
Basic CAD Operation
Before we go too far, it's important to understand how these governmental institutions operate. A county appraisal district (CAD) is governed by a board of directors. This board of directors is appointed by taxing units within the county. Municipalities, counties, school boards, conservation areas, and reclamation areas are all allowed to help choose the board members for the CAD. The Harris County Appraisal District board of directors is chosen by taxing units like the city of Houston, the Katy Independent School District, and Harris County itself.
The board of directors hires a chief appraiser who is largely responsible for appraising every property in the county. The chief appraiser and their staff must abide by several rules when appraising properties. Of course, fairness is vitally important to the success of any venture undertaken by the chief appraiser.
What is Unequal Appraisal?
Unequal appraisal essentially occurs when the chief appraiser's assessment of a property is not consistent with similar properties in the area. For instance, let’s say you lived in Houston’s Spring Branch neighborhood and your property was appraised for $300,000. If all of your neighbors and people on nearby street blocks had property appraisals around $200,000, then that would be an example of an unequal appraisal (unless your property had $100,000 worth of improvements). The Harris Co. Appraisal District (under the auspices of the chief appraiser) should account for this problem.
What Happens when Unequal Appraisal Isn't Fixed?
Every CAD and chief appraiser tries to avoid unequal appraisal, but sometimes they get things wrong. If this happens to you and your property, then you should contact the CAD directly. They may have simply made a mistake and could be willing to fix it in short order. In certain cases, however, they will not budge. They may think that their assessment of your property's value is accurate even if it does not correspond to other property appraisals in the area.
If this occurs, then you have the right to file a notice of protest with the county appraisal review board (ARB). The ARB is an independent review board in charge of keeping the CAD in check. Unequal appraisal is one of four generally accepted reasons to file a protest with the ARB (the other 3 are overvaluation, lack of notice from the CAD, and declined exemptions). When the ARB accepts your protest, you will be granted a protest hearing where you can argue your case. As with most things, it certainly helps to have some professional guidance on your side.
Contact O'Connor & Associates today for more information on property taxes in Texas.
Posted in: Texas Property Tax Keywords: Property taxes Houston, Property tax protest, unequal appraisal, reduce property taxes