What to do if You do not Agree with Your Assessment?

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The assessment staff in the City of Fairfax receives a number of assessment appeals each year and is very interested in your concerns. This information sheet is designed to assist you in preparing your appeal. Please take a few minutes to read through this information so that your appeal will be as effective as possible.

Preparing Your Appeal 

As you begin to prepare your appeal, you are asked to consider the following areas of concern first. You should first request, from this office, a copy of the property record card for the property you wish to appeal. This information can also be found in the online assessment database. This record contains vital information regarding the property, which may ultimately affect the assessment. You should review this information carefully and note any discrepancies on the appeal form so that the appraiser may review them for a possible assessment change. As you review the property record card, consider the following factors:

  • size of your home (living area)
  • size of other improvements (garage, deck, pool, etc.)
  • condition of your home (depreciation: reasonable or severe?)
  • proper listing of features including finished basement area, number of baths, fireplaces, etc. 

Residential properties are assessed by the use of the market data approach, based on sales of properties in your area, and state law requires that assessments be based upon 100% of fair market value. Have you reviewed the sales of homes similar to yours in your neighborhood? This information is public record and can be provided in the assessment office or found in the online database at any time.

The Assessor's Office receives many appeals each year based upon the percentage the assessment has increased over the prior assessment. It should be understood that percentages of increase are an after-the-fact computation, and are not made in advance of your assessment. The market value of your property is determined based on sales in your area, the size, style, condition and amenities of your property, and is required to be in line with the assessments of other similar homes in your area. Market value does not increase at the same rate in every neighborhood; likewise the assessment increases will vary from neighborhood or neighborhood. Percentage of increase is not a basis for appeal.

As you prepare your appeal, it is a good idea to review the assessments of properties in your neighborhood that are the most similar to yours. Many homeowners are surprised to learn that assessments are public record and may be reviewed at any time. The Assessor is required by law to ensure that the assessments of similar properties located in the same area are equitable. Should you find discrepancies when making your comparisons, please list the addresses of the properties in question in the section provided at the bottom of the appeal form.

Finally, as a homeowner, you know the condition of your home better than anyone else. If you believe a condition exists which negatively affects the value of your property, it would be advisable to indicate this in the space provided on the appeal form and allow an appraiser to inspect the property. Adjustments can be made for these conditions, but the appraiser must be able to see the problem in order consider how it will affect the market value of the property.

Board of Equalization 

This three person board composed of city property owners is empowered to hear appeals of assessments from property owners or their agents who wish to appeal their assessment. The Board of Equalization has the power to affirm, raise or lower assessments as necessary in order to ensure an equitable distribution of the tax to all property owners in the City of Fairfax. When appealing to the Board of Equalization, it is the responsibility of the property owner to provide proof to the Board that the assessment placed on the property is either
  • in excess of fair market value, or
  • is not equitable with the assessments of similar properties located in the same area. 

Tax Relief 

Each year, several appeals are filed by retired and disabled homeowners who have owned their homes for a period of years, but are now on a fixed or limited income. These individuals fear that increasing assessments directly reflect increased taxes to be paid, and appeal their assessments not because they disagree with the estimate of market value, but rather as an attempt to keep real estate taxes from rising beyond their ability to pay.

The City of Fairfax recognizes the income limitations and special needs of both the elderly and the handicapped individual, and has had a tax and rent relief program in effect since 1973. The basic limits of the program are:

Net Worth $340,000
Income $72,000
Rental Relief $420 (One Time Payment)

Many factors are considered in the determination of eligibility in each of the categories listed above. Please contact the Department of Finance at 703.385.7870 for further information. We urge you to take the time to find out about this beneficial program.

Appeal Process Summary 

Complete the appeal form including all data that you feel will be helpful to the appraiser who will review your assessment (attach additional sheets if necessary).  The appraiser may contact you during the course of the review to ask further questions, or schedule a property inspection.
Return the appeal form to the assessment office prior to the appeal deadline noted on the top of the form.
Consider the response and supporting documentation provided by the appraiser.
Most appeals are satisfied at this level. If you are not satisfied with the action taken by the appraiser, you may further appeal the assessment to the Board of Equalization. If you wish to do so, phone the Assessor's Office for the necessary form at 703.385.7840

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