Every year property owners pay ad valorem taxes which are based upon the property appraiser’s assessed value of their property as of January 1st of that year. If the property owner believes that the valuation exceeds the actual value of the property, the Florida Statutes have created an administrative hearing process through which the property owner can challenge that valuation and seek to have their taxes reduced. During the 2009 legislative session, state lawmakers attempted to provide some assistance to property owners in this position. Effective for this year’s assessments, the property appraiser’s assessed value no longer carries an automatic “presumption of correctness”, as it has for many years. The property appraiser must now prove that the property valuation was arrived at through the consideration of all of the relevant statutory factors, and by the use of a professionally accepted appraisal practice. The intent of the legislation is to put the property owner in a better position to challenge whether the property appraiser has properly considered such factors as the present value of the property in an arm’s length transaction, the highest and best use of the property under applicable zoning or land use restrictions, the size, location, and condition of the property, and the purchase price of the property. Property owners challenging their property assessment must be able to provide competent and substantial evidence to counter the claims of the property appraiser. In most cases, the lay testimony of a property owner as to the value of the property is not going to satisfy this requirement. The property appraiser will be represented by professional appraisers, and the special magistrates who preside over the appeal hearings are required by law to be certified real estate appraisers. Further, because the appeal hearings are quasi-judicial proceedings which involve the introduction of evidence, cross-examining witnesses, procedural rules, filing deadlines, etc., many property owners are apprehensive about navigating this process without professional assistance. Most property owners in this situation can benefit from the advice of legal counsel and professional appraisers in evaluating their claim and pursuing the appeal. Due to the costs involved with hiring these types of professionals, the level of assistance that is appropriate for each case will vary depending on the factual circumstances. If you think that your property has been assessed at a value that is greater than the actual market value of your property, or if you have been denied a tax exemption that you think applies to your property, you should consult an attorney with knowledge in these areas to determine if you may have a valid claim.
SCOTT E. RUDACILLE is an Associate with Kirk Pinkerton, P.A., and concentrates his practice in the areas of land use, local government, and administrative law. He has experience representing private clients through administrative proceedings in nearly every local government jurisdiction in Manatee and Sarasota counties. He also represents governmental clients, including a municipality, school district, interlocal government, community development districts, and special taxing districts. Scott received his Bachelor of Science degree (with Honors) and his Juris Doctorate degree (with Honors), both from the University of Florida. He lives in Holmes Beach with his wife, Janae.admin