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Associations May File Property Tax Appeals On Behalf Of Owners

Property tax bills will soon arrive in your mailbox.

And while you may have watched your own property's value plunge again this past year - along with so many South Florida condominium and home owners - don't expect an automatic commensurate drop in the amount of taxes you owe.

Of course, you can always complain officially: Florida law not only allows property owners to file a petition to appeal an out-of-whack tax bill, it also offers community associations the opportunity to file once on the behalf of all owners in a particular complex.

In general, most appeals are successful, attorneys say.

Once a petition is filed, the county Value Adjustment Board sets the case for hearing in front of a special magistrate. Should the magistrate rule to reduce the contested tax assessment, owners who have already paid their taxes will receive a refund. For unit owners who have not already paid at the time of the decision, a corrected bill will be sent via mail.

"The condominium market has been in a state of decline since 2007 and has gotten progressively worse between 2008 and 2009," said Eric M. Glazer, a South Florida attorney who represents numerous associations in the area. "Unfortunately, many taxpayers have not seen their property taxes decline in accordance with the fall of the market. We believe that there will be a tremendous opportunity for taxpayers to substantially reduce their 2009 assessment through the appeals process."

If the association files on behalf of all unit owners, the filing fee charged by the county is $5 per unit. If an individual files on his or her own, the filing fee is $15 per unit.

Many factors can affect the fair market value of condos and homes, including foreclosure rates in the building and surrounding metro market, the incidence of mortgage fraud, a dramatic increase in supply of condo units, the condition and/or use of surrounding properties and whether a property has buildings with significant structural damage or are in need of costly repair.

Where to find help:

Associations may consider consulting their own attorneys about filing a petition, but keep in mind not all association attorneys have experience with such cases. But going with your association attorney may be helpful if he or she is intimately familiar with the history of the building, foreclosures in the community, claims against the developer, and other issues that the building may have that may contribute to a favorable ruling by the Special Magistrate.

Owners may also tap into the resources of a new community association consulting company called CAPS (Community Association Preservation and Stabilization, LLC), which assists private residential communities in recovering monies owed to them, including property tax refunds. They accept cases on a contingency-fee basis. For more information, visit www.capsasap.com or call 1-866-227-7007.

Important dates:

Tax assessment notices began being mailed to property owners in Broward County last week and will be sent out in Palm Beach County around August 21, and in Miami Dade County around August 24.

The filing deadline in Miami Dade and Broward County is September 18. The filing deadline in Palm Beach County is September 15.