Appraisal districts across Texas sent the notices to property owners in April and appraisal protests must be filed by May 17.
In 2019, the Texas Legislature passed a new law raising the standard under which the appraisal may be increased in a year. If a homeowner protests his property value and achieves a reduction in one year, the appraiser must present clear and convincing evidence to show that the value ought to be increased the next year.
Because of this increased standard of proof on appraisal districts, realtor Chandler Crouch encourages property owners to file protests every year.
In fact, if a homeowner lives in Tarrant County, Crouch will protest the appraisal for him at no charge.
“In America, you shouldn’t have to rent your home from the government to live in it,” Crouch said in a webinar helping homeowners learn how to file protests. He pointed out that property tax bills increase regularly for homeowners without regard to any realized gain or associated ability to pay.
In his analysis, Crouch said he has seen property tax bills in Tarrant County increase by 50 percent in the last few years, but income has only risen by 12 percent.
According to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, “From 1998 to 2017, Texas’ local property taxes grew by 212%. In comparison, population growth and inflation increased by only 114%.”
Furthermore, Crouch points out that increased tax bills have a disparate impact on minority homeowners who are less inclined to file appraisal protests.
For those who argue that homeowners should be happy that their property values are going up, Crouch points out that if the homeowner has no plans to move, then he realizes no benefit from the increased value. He just gets to pay higher taxes.
For those who wish to file a property value protest, some appraisal districts, like Tarrant County, have automated systems.
The informal protest allows the homeowner and appraisal district to reach an agreement with no formal hearing.
The formal protest requires that the homeowner gather evidence and attend a hearing before an Appraisal Review Board. However, a homeowner can complete an affidavit of evidence found on the Texas Comptroller’s website and submit it with evidence in lieu of appearing at a formal hearing.
Evidence should include comparable homes that have sold in the same area with adjustments for size and condition. If a homeowner presents photos of condition issues with his home, he should include estimates for the cost of repair, Crouch suggested. Comparable sales reports can be generated by realtors.
Additionally, he urged homeowners to ask the appraisal district for the comparable properties it is using for determining the value of one’s home.
The good news, according to Crouch, is that Texas law prohibits the appraisal district from raising one’s property value during a protest.
If a formal appeal with the Appraisal Review Board is still unsatisfactory, the homeowner can appeal through a binding arbitration then at a state district court.
Rich DeOtte, who garnered a seat on the Tarrant Appraisal District (TAD) Board of Directors in January 2020, told The Texan that the number of protests has remained about the same in Tarrant County for the last two years.
TAD’s chief appraiser reported to DeOtte that there will be an overall increase in property value in Tarrant County of about 4 percent. Commercial property values are expected to decrease by about 3 percent while residential values increase between 6 and 7 percent.
DeOtte also said that there is an effort by some on the board to make sure each homeowner is treated fairly by TAD. That includes changes to how the appraisal software operates and a culture and attitude toward taxpayers at the district, DeOtte said.
Daniel Haase, vice-president of the Central Meadowbrook neighborhood in east Fort Worth, also believes that TAD could implement changes that could help homeowners save some money.
He did an investigation of his own, combing through hundreds of public property records on TAD’s website, and discovered that about 20 percent of homeowners in the Handley and Central Meadowbrook neighborhoods were not taking advantage of the homestead exemption which remove part of the home’s value from taxation thus potentially saving several hundred dollars per year.
Of those homeowners, the majority had Hispanic surnames, making Haase wonder if TAD could make more effort to help them understand the process or send the homestead exemption form in Spanish.
Upon contacting TAD, Haase learned that new property owners receive a homestead exemption form once and if they don’t complete it to request the exemption, they are not contacted again by the district.
In contrast, Habitat for Humanity has built 23 homes in the Central Meadowbrook neighborhood and ensured that each homeowner applied for the homestead exemption. “It is possible to have a much better rate of exemption,” Haase told The Texan.
He would like to see TAD create a Spanish version of the homestead exemption form, mail it more than once to homeowners, and be more cooperative with neighborhood associations who would like data of new homeowners to contact about applying for the homestead exemption. Currently, TAD charges to provide this data to neighborhood associations who could help inform their neighbors about homestead exemptions.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.