Last month, the City of Atlanta raised taxes 42% and with property values falling, many of my neighbors are asking “how do I appeal the Fulton County property tax assessment?” I am an l injury lawyer so do not pick up the phone and ask me to handle your appeal because i won’t . However, as a resident in the City and an officer of the Court, I do want to give you the tools to file your own appeal if the County is taking advantage of you. So how do you sink their battleship?
First off, you should not panic. For a home worth about $240,000.00, this should not be more than a $250 increase for the year which breaks down to just over $20.00 a month. However, it is certainly a punch in the eye when you consider the amount of waste the Mayor has allowed to occur. To add insult to injury, with property values in Georgia sinking to 1996 levels in some counties, this is going to anger a lot of good citizens. So, let’s get to it. How do you appeal the Fulton County property tax assessment now that values are going down?
1) When you get Change of Assessment Notice, file your written appeal on uniformity or value within 45 days.
2) Choose whether you want arbitration or binding arbitration instead of an appeal to the Board of Equalization (the BOE).
3) You will need to conduct extensive research into comparable sales of similar homes in your neighborhood. You may want to get a certified appraisal of your property but this will cost around $300.00. Comparable sales win the battle every time!
4) The Board of Assessors will assign a staff appraiser to go over your appeal and will make a recommendation to the BOA.
5) You will get a written decision on your appeal and you may accept or reject the decision. If you want to accept the new value, you have 21 days or the appeal will go to the BOE or arbitration.
6) If the appraiser for the County does not change their mind, then the appeal goes to the BOE or arbitration, depending on what you chose.
7) The BOE will notify you of a hearing and you or your agent may appear to present your case to the three member panel.
8) After the hearing, the BOE will tell you what they decided.
9) If that decision still is not in your favor and you have the backbone then, you can appeal to the Superior Court of Fulton County within thirty days of the BOE decision. At this point you basically have to have a lawyer because the Superior Court Judge is going to enforce the rules of evidence on getting comparable sales data in so just be prepared.
Arbitration in Fulton County, Georgia
An alternative to the BOE process is Arbitration. The arbitration fee is split between you and the Board of Assessors.
Binding Arbitration in Fulton County, Georgia
Binding arbitration is scarier because it is….binding. As in whatever they say goes. If you chose binding arbitration, you must provide a certified appraisal within thirty days of filing the notice of appeal. Then the Fulton Board of Assessors has thirty days after receiving your certified appraisal to accept your appraisal value or to appeal to the Clerk of Superior Court.
Fifteen days later, a Fulton County Superior Court Judge will order arbitration and within another thirty days, the arbitrator will set a hearing date. There you will present your evidence of comparable sales and around thirty days after that, the arbitrator will decide which of you is correct. Here is the zinger, this is a loser pays system so if you lose, you have to pay the arbitrator’s fee. If the City of Atlanta loses, then they pay.
The Appeal to Fulton County Superior Court
As I mentioned above, you are going to need a lawyer in Superior Court. The procedures are just too complex otherwise. The appeal is a jury trial and they will decide if you are right or if the County is. The appeal has to be filed with the Board of Assessors and you pay the filing fee.
You can get a copy of the Document the Assessor prepared to review your property value in person from the Assessors’ office or by mail. To get it in the mail, send a SASE to Fulton County Board of Assessors, Suite 1056,141 Pryor Street, S. W., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3445.
Pull up your property description from the County website.
You can also got to the North Fulton Service center and read the Street Index and Sales Books to look for comparable sales.
Finally you should get a certified appraisal.
Remember that the County is slow and disorganized but not totally stupid. You will look awfully dumb if you applied for a re-fi last year and told the mortgage company the property was worth $400,000.00 and now you want to argue to a jury that it is worth $300,000.00. You have to pay your share because you use the fire department, the cops, the water and the sewer. It is an expensive town but you chose to live here and now you have to deal with it.
As for the City of Atlanta and their tax hikes? We, the voters, need to wipe out this administration. How they managed to run up a huge deficit and did not manage to save for a rainy day in the good years is beyond me.
One last thing. I am an injury lawyer and I do not handle property tax appeals. If you want help in filing your appeal contact the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation, a non-profit group with pretty reasonable rates.