OPINION: Especially This Year, Protest Your Property Tax Assessments

By Maryland Senator Roy Dyson (D-29)

I can not believe what I am reading in the newspapers the last few days. For some inconceivable reason, home and land assessments are skyrocketing at the same time foreclosures are becoming a major drain on the economy, real estate agents are struggling to sell houses and home values are plummeting.

It's amazing, but somehow true. Home values are plummeting, but assessments are rising. This makes no sense. Now, more than ever, I encourage everyone who gets their assessment notice in the mail to make an appointment at their local assessment office and file a protest, or appeal.

It is your legal right. I have heard that some assessment officials have been rude and intimidating to people who are exercising these rights. Although most State Employees are friendly and willing to offer assistance and help you. If you feel you are treated unfairly, please do not hesitate to call my office. I will make sure that comments I have heard from constituents in the past such as "I don't have enough time for you" or "what are you complaining for?" are not coming out of the mouths of our local assessment officials. You deserve to be treated with the utmost respect since these assessors work for you. You don't work for them. They are state employees

The State of Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation encourages people to protest their notices if they believe they are too high. Your local assessment office's job is to listen to your appeal and work with you, not against you. They ultimately answer to the State. The State Assessments office is none too happy when a few rogue assessors give constituents a hard time or don't show up for scheduled appointments.

If you set up an appointment for an assessor to visit your home so you can validate your protest and they don't show up on time or not at all, that is rude and unprofessional. This isn't like that infamous "four-hour" window of time that cable or telephone employees give you when you are waiting at home for them to show up—often past that four-time window if at all.

As I said, if you are mistreated by an assessor, you can contact my office or the State of Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation at (410) 767-4881 and ask to speak to the Director, C. John Sullivan, Jr. The toll free number is (888) 246-5941.

On your assessment notice, there is a phone number to call to set up an appointment. Your local tax assessment office can not deny an appeal (protest).

In the past, I have written about the best way to be prepared to protest your assessments. After you file your appeal, your tax assessor will discuss why you were assessed what you were. Be sure to have any relevant information available to make the case that your assessment is too high. For instance, whoever assessed your property may not you may have special circumstances that they know nothing about such as failing septic systems, land erosion or any other problems.

It's important to know that all of the information you provide about your property will be kept confidential.

So, make sure if you believe your assessments are too high, to call and set up an appointment to appeal before the deadline. If not, you will be stuck with paying your property taxes with no recourse.

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