While it certainly does not feel like it, the spring solstice is upon us! With the first day of spring being March 20, 2019, this is the perfect time for real property owners in Ohio to perform routine maintenance on property, which can yield savings by avoiding costly repairs down the road.

In addition to annual spring cleaning of property, property owners should keep in mind that the deadline to challenge your property tax valuation is April 1, 2019. Property values were just reappraised for several counties, including Cuyahoga, Erie, Huron, Lake, Lorain, Stark, Lucas, and Portage Counties. It is important to note that property valuations are often times inaccurate and too high. However, there are a few options available for real property owners in Ohio to decrease real estate tax valuations, which will lower tax bills.

How Property Values are Determined

Real property is reappraised every six years through visual inspection by each county. Year 1, referred to as the reappraisal year, is when the county auditor views the properties and conducts a full reassessment of their values. In many smaller counties, the auditor’s appraisal staff will drive around looking for changes made since the last assessment. Today, in most large counties, auditors depend more on aerial photography and drones to photograph properties. They use sophisticated computer programs to measure and document recent physical changes made to the properties. Once the auditor determines the reappraisal value, it generally stays in effect for the next two years of the tax cycle unless the property is sold, a casualty occurs to the property, or an improvement is made. Year 4, referred to as the update year, is when county auditors make adjustments to property values based upon data gathered from sales that occurred in Years 2 and 3, with analysis provided by knowledgeable market participants like real estate brokers and investors, and economic reports. Values generally remain the same for Years 5 and 6, unless the property is sold, a casualty occurs or an improvement is made.

Challenging Your Property Values

If you disagree with the valuation of your Ohio real property, your first step should be to file a “Complaint Against Valuation” with the local county board of revision. Normally, owners can only challenge a county auditor’s valuation one time in each three-year cycle. This complaint must be filed by April 1st, and this is a hard deadline for many counties. The complaint form, which asks 14 questions about your property, is used statewide. It is important to fill out the form carefully because incorrect information can result in the dismissal of a case.

The Complaint Process

Once the complaint is received, the Board of Revision will take two actions. If a real property owner is seeking a decrease in property value of more than $50,000, the Board of Revision will notify the local school district. (Since school districts generally receive between 65-70 percent of property taxes collected, they are the government entity most affected.) If the school district decides to become involved with the owner’s case, its attorney will be allowed to cross-examine the owner’s witnesses and to present its own evidence of the property’s value.

The Board of Revision will also schedule a hearing. Usually hearings occur during the summer and fall months and last about 15 to 30 minutes. The county auditor, county treasurer and the president of the Board of County Commissioners (or members of their staffs) sit on the panel. The Board of Revision typically issues its decisions within four weeks after the hearing. If an owner is unhappy with the Board of Revision’s decision, they may file an appeal with the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals or the local County Common Pleas Court.