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posted: 7/29/2012 1:00 AM

Request lower assessment after a decline in home's value

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Q. We just closed on our first house. We have a question about our real estate taxes.

We bought our house, which is in Lake County, for $205,000. The 2011 real estate tax bill is $8,200. This seems very high to us. Is there somewhere we can check and see if there is a mistake somewhere?

A. You're right, that is a very high real estate tax bill for a property worth $205,000. This situation, however, is not uncommon. I am guessing what has occurred here, as well as with many other properties in this area, is that although the value of the property has decreased over the past five years, neither the township assessor nor any of the previous owners has taken any action to reduce the assessed valuation of the property.

Your real estate tax bill is arrived at by multiplying the assessed valuation times the multiplier times the local tax rate. There is nothing you can do about the last two components; however, you do have the ability to challenge the assessor's assessed valuation.

In Lake County, the assessed valuation is theoretically one-third of the fair market value of the property. So, if your property is worth $205,000, the appropriate assessed valuation is $68,333. I can virtually guarantee you the assessed valuation on your property is significantly higher than that. You can check the assessed valuation of your property by going to the Lake County Assessor's website. You will need your property index number, or PIN.

What probably happened with this property is that back in 2007 or so, the property was worth somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000. An $8,200 tax bill on a $350,000 Lake County property is not terribly out of line. An $8,200 tax bill on a $205,000 piece of property is nuts. However, because no one has taken any action to reduce the assessed valuation on the property, it is probably still being assessed at the pre-crash value.

Contact your township assessor to determine when the appeal period runs for your township. Each year, usually in the late summer or fall, the assessor sends out proposed assessed valuation notices to all property owners. You then have 30 days in which to file a complaint and challenge the assessor's valuation. This is why it's vital that you determine the appeal period for you township. The assessed valuation in this notice will be used to calculate the 2012 real estate tax bill, payable in 2013.

Filing the complaint is easy with forms and instructions available online. Sometimes you can get the valuation reduced simply by contacting the township assessor and pleading your case. The good news is you possess the best evidence available of the value of your property, which is your closing statement from your purchase.

• Send your questions to attorney Tom Resnick, 345 N. Quentin Road, Palatine, IL 60067, by email to or call (847) 359-8983.

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