Since 1999, the property tax appeal attorneys of Flaherty Fardo Rogel & Amick have been the recognized leader in reducing property assessments in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Our Pittsburgh firm has not only lowered property tax assessments well in excess of 250 Million dollars (saving our clients tens of millions of dollars in actual property taxes over the years) but has developed a reputation in Pittsburgh and in Allegheny County as the go-to firm for property assessments. It is commonplace for CEO's, professional athletes, top doctors at UPMC, and some of Pittsburgh's largest employers to contact us concerning a property tax appeal (both commercial and residential), and almost always one of the first things they say is that "they were referred to us." We are truly thankful for the hundreds if not thousands of referrals we have received over the years.
Attorneys Noah Fardo and Nicole Hauptman Amick have helped more than 10,000 property owners throughout Allegheny County and have over 30+ years combined experience in handling property assessment appeals. This does not guarantee results, but does demonstrate our extensive and unique experience in handling Allegheny County property tax appeals. More importantly, we are grateful for the hundreds of referrals from past clients and sincerely try to treat each client and case as unique. The success of our property tax appeal business has been based primarily on past satisfied clients.
The global pandemic has had a dramatic effect on property tax appeals in Allegheny County.
First, procedurally, all of the first level BPAAR hearings as well as the second level BOV hearings are being conducted telephonically. This has had a significant impact not only on scheduling and timing of these appeal hearings, but also has changed how evidence is being submitted. For all telephone assessment appeal hearings, all evidence is required to be exchanged between all parties at least 5 days before the tax appeal hearing is scheduled. This means property owners must submit evidence to the county, the school district and their local borough or municipality in advance of the hearing. This is a significant departure from in-person hearings where there is no obligation to exchange information before the hearing. There are pros and cons to this requirement, but we prefer to examine the school district's evidence in advance and typically we believe it has been advantageous to date to exchange evidence in advance. The potential downside is that the school district also has time to review a property owner's evidence in advance, but we think the submission of evidence rule change overall is a beneficial to property owners.
The second impact of the COVID-19 pandemic towards Allegheny County property tax appeals is the existence of potential new appeals (especially commercial property owners) and their opportunity to use the pandemic as a basis for lowering property taxes. Many commercial property owners, including restaurants, hotels, and commercial office space have taken a substantial reduction in income and may be entitled to significant reductions in property taxes. We expect in 2021 that there will be an extraordinary large number of property tax appeals in Allegheny County. Even though many in Western Pennsylvania are still optimistic about residential home sales, we believe the pandemic will also afford many single family property owners to reevaluate their property assessments and should at least consider filing a new tax appeal in 2021.
If you are involved in an Allegheny County assessment appeal, or have questions as to whether you should file a commercial or residential property tax appeal in 2021, we offer free consultations and look forward to helping you lower your property taxes.
Every tax year, (and 2020 is no different) the school districts in Allegheny County file thousands of property tax appeals against recent home buyers. The school district appeal typically attempts to raise the property assessment based upon the recent purchase price, with the argument being that the purchase price supports that the property is currently underassesed. The good news for recent home buyers is that you can defend these school district appeals. For over 20 years, our Pittsburgh firm has been helping residential and commercial property owners defend tax appeals filed by the taxing entities.
First, we believe that appealing only recent home-buyers violates the uniformity clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution. You should not be able to have two identical homes, but because one recently sold, that property pays potentially double of the exact same neighbor next door. It defies common sense, and while it is never wise to argue comparable 'assessments' in these cases, we believe it is prudent to highlight significant examples showing lack of uniformity if they exist.
Second, property owners should never volunteer information to the school district or answer discovery requests from the school district without speaking to an attorney first. For the first time ever in 2020, we have seen school districts send written discovery requests to property owners in advance of the first level BPAAR hearing. This is absolutely something that property owners are NOT required to respond to.
Third, make sure school districts meet their burden of proof. One sale does not make a market and a valuation method must be used in Pennsylvania in order to change an assessment. This means, if the school districts are simply handing in a copy of a deed in order to change an assessment, they have not met their burden of proof under Pennsylvania law.
There are additional ways that school districts appeals should be defended including but not limited to:
We strongly recommend all recent home-buyers consider defending tax appeals filed by the school districts. If you are unsure whether defending the appeal makes financial sense, we offer free no obligation consults on all property tax appeal matters.
For more information on how to defend school district appeals please read here.
In addition to residential tax appeals, our Pittsburgh tax lawyers also have significant commercial property tax appeal experience. We have successfully handled a broad range of commercial tax appeals throughout western Pennsylvania including large shopping malls, commercial apartment buildings, restaurants, strip malls, car washes, industrial sites, car dealerships, warehouses, steel mills, manufacturing plants, vacant commercial lots, motels and hotels. Commercial property tax appeal cases are more likely to proceed to an actual hearing at the Board of Viewers than residential cases are, at least in our opinion and experience. We believe our significant experience as real estate trial lawyers is an advantage when having to fully litigate commercial property tax appeal cases.
In 2021, we believe there will be a significant increase in filings for commercial property tax appeals as a result of the pandemic. If your business has lost revenue, or there has been vacancies in space as a result of the COVID-19, please contact us for a free evaluation of your commercial property so that we may help adjust the property taxes accordingly.
If there is no pending property tax appeal, the next opportunity to appeal your property taxes is not until 2021. The 2021 appeal deadline is presently set for March 31, 2021. Any appeal challenging an assessment in 2021 has the potential to impact your taxes for the 2021 tax year moving forward.
The 2020 appeal deadline was March 31, 2020, so appeals can no longer be filed in 2020.
The 2012 base years will remain in effect for 2021 property tax appeals. This means that the question at a 2021 tax appeal hearing will still be: What was the Fair Market Value of the subject property as of January 1, 2012. This can be argued by the Appellant (the appealing party) by using EITHER a 2012 base year argument, or a current market value argument depreciated backwards to the 2012 base year.
Here are the Allegheny County property assessment appeal forms.
We review every single case to see if we can help before actually offering representation. It makes no sense for us to offer representation for a tax appeal if we cannot help our clients actually save money on their property taxes. For those cases we do accept, we charge either a contingency of the actual tax savings (40% to 50%) or, in the alternative, a flat fee for the entire representation (flat fees are quoted case by case and cover the entire appeals process). It should be noted that we actually review the merits of each case before quoting a flat fee.
Property owners should be cautious when hiring an attorney for representation in a property appeal for two main reasons. First, be careful about flat fees that do not cover the entire scope of representation. Our flat fees always cover the entire appeals process and many of these cases are appealed to a second level hearing. Many property owners have called us and hired our firm only after learning that their previous lawyer engagement did not cover the entire process. Keep this in mind, especially if you hire a non-lawyer at the first level, because non-lawyers are NOT allowed to represent property owners at the second level BOV (Board of Viewers).
Second, with regards to the contingency agreements, some firms charge a percentage for future years, even after the appeal has already been completely resolved. Flaherty Fardo never charges a contingency for any year in which we do not represent the property owner. You need to make sure that any contingency agreement is based upon the actual tax savings for ONLY the year(s) involved in the appeal.
For more information about how Flaherty Fardo charges for tax appeals, please read What Are Your Fees For Tax Appeals?
READ: Top Allegheny County property assessment FAQ’s. If you really wish to understand the Allegheny County assessment process in more detail.
The Allegheny County assessment home page offers additional information about the appeals process, and forms.
This Property tax calculator is a good tool for estimating property taxes and understanding the actual tax differences based upon an assessment change.
If you want to find a list of recently sold properties, you can check various real estate websites that list this information such as realtor.com or zillow.com, but we don't believe these tools are as productive as an actual searchable database of the county information which can also be subscribed to online but costs significantly more.
If you would like a free consultation concerning a commercial, residential or school district filed tax appeal, please feel free to contact attorneys Noah Fardo or Nicole Hauptman Amick directly at 412.802.6666 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to saving you money on your property taxes.