How to appeal your property assessment

Once your property tax bill arrives, there's nothing to be done about what you owe. But a good eye and some homework in advance can ensure you won't pay more than your fair share.

Every year, property owners have a 30-day window to appeal their property assessments, which represents a historical average of property values in a given area. The assessed value multiplied by tax rates for various entities, such as school districts and towns, produces the amount to be paid in tax.

While fluctuations in assessed value don't typically drive the amount of a tax bill, but having a lower assessment can't hurt.

So what should property owners be aware of?

Advances in technology have put online virtually everything involving the assessment appeal process from the "how to" to comparable property listings.

Experts say to start simply. Is the physical description of your property on the assessment notice correct?

"The big thing is be aware of what your property may be worth and when you get a change of assessment, pay attention," said Craig V. Dovel, supervisor of assessments for DuPage County.

If you feel an appeal is in order, your county or township assessor's website will provide the information and tools - such as comparable property information - to determine whether you have a valid claim.

Next, contact your township assessor, who sets those values and can make changes without the need to proceed to a board of review. That's a more formal process and may call for the services of a lawyer or real estate professional.

"We can save people so much time and money if they would just come to us first," said Libertyville Township Assessor Peggy Freese. "We can show them how we derived their assessments, we can show them sales in the neighborhood." Changes can be made on the spot.

Even if a township assessor has granted or denied a request to reduce the assessment, it can still be appealed to the board of review.

Experts say property owners also should make sure they get the exemptions to which they're entitled. Listings or contact information is on the assessment notice or the respective website.

In Lake County, property owners can complete an assessment appeal form and submit it with evidence, such as comparable properties, appraisals or sales documents, by paper or electronically. Individual boards of review decide cases based on the evidence provided and often can be resolved without a hearing.

"I would always point them to the website first," said Marty Paulson, chief county assessment officer for Lake County.

Here are the links to assessment resources in the Chicago area:

Lake County, chief county assessment office:

Cook County assessor:

Kane County assessment office:

McHenry County assessments office:

DuPage County supervisor or assessments:

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