Challenging the Assessed Value of Real Property in Florida

If you own real property in Florida, you know that tax bills are due every November.  With the recent decline in real estate values around the state, and especially in South Florida, many people are asking this question of their county property appraiser:  how is this property  possibly worth that much in this depressed market?

In Florida a person’s homestead- or permanent residence- receives a hefty tax break of $50,000 off the taxable value of the home each year. When the owner dies, that property loses; not only that tax exemption starting January 1 of the year after their death, but also loses the cap on taxable value called “Save Our Homes.”. This combination can greatly increase the property taxes that the new owner must pay to keep that property and motivate the new owner to question the assessed value placed upon the property for tax purposes.

Vacant lots in Florida have been among the hardest hit.  In some counties lots have been auctioned off by the dozen, at prices much less than current assessments.  A good argument can be made that the winning bids at a properly noticed auction with competing bidders,  of lots similar to yours, are demonstrating the current "market value."

How does one go about challenging that value?

If you suspect that the property you inherited is not accurately valued, relative to current market value, then you should inform the County Property Appraiser’s office of any facts that are detrimental to the value of the property. For example, did the decedent leave the house in disrepair or uninhabitable? Has the neighborhood severely declined over the years? Do you have a professional appraisal that shows a big difference from the county’s market value for your property? (Market value is not the same as assessed value, but they are supposed to be related.) Such facts may keep the appraiser from increasing the value more than is reasonable, or even cause him or her to inspect and re-appraise the house and reduce the  assessed value.

If the assessed value is something that you want to challenge further, you must file an appeal in writing to the tax assessor's office shortly after receiving an assessment notice, sent out in August.  The board of assessors will then review the appeal and send you a second notice informing you of the change to the valuation, if any. You can appeal the decision from there.

Follow this link for helpful information from the Florida Department of Revenue on the timetable and procedures for challenging the assessed value in Florida: http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/property/taxpayers/

A newspaper article in 2008 may be useful as you consider such a challenge.

Readers are invited to share their experiences in trying to challenge or adjust assessment values.