Property Assessments (January 2018)

This year's BC Assessment notices brought with them a wide variety of changes. Some co-ops saw their assessments halved over last year, others saw doublings.

Take a look at the chart below which summarizes the changes for about 285 co-op properties. (The number reviewed is larger than the number of co-ops because some co-ops have multiple assessment addresses. Even so, a small number of co-ops are excluded from the counts.)

 

The average assessed value went up by an amount just shy of 20%. The increase in median value was a little lower at 16.7%. Interestingly, one in seven co-op properties saw decreases or no change at all in assessed value. The co-op portfolio in BC as a whole represents more than $4.3 billion.

Co-ops should remember that increases in assessed value do not translate directly into property tax increases. Only if your property value increases more than the average in your area will you see proportionally higher tax increases (compared to other property owners). And homeowner grants may have an offsetting effect. Appealing an assessment is an option, but you’ll need to take quick action to secure your right to appeal: the deadline is January 31.

  1. There are three common avenues to appeal your assessment (beyond notifying BC Assessment of simple clerical mistakes). Your buildings may be worth less than BC Assessment thinks, due to needed building repairs and renewals. This is usually the easiest argument to make. In the past, co-ops with envelope issues or other serious maintenance problems have been able to argue for reductions. Co-ops generally need supporting engineering documents (e.g. building condition assessments) to make this kind of overvaluation claim. Remember, if your co-op has seen significant capital works over the last couple of years, relative increases in your assessed value should be expected.
  2. Legal restrictions on the use of the land can also reduce assessments. Many non-profit societies with BC Housing agreements have covenants on title which serve to lower the assessed value. Very few co-ops are in this position, and merely having an operating agreement has in the past not been grounds for a reduced assessment.
  3. Sometimes BC Assessment just gets it wrong. Comparisons with other similar, nearby properties are the best way forward in these cases, and that takes some research.

Co-ops will sometimes make appeals on their own, sometimes with the assistance of management companies, and sometimes they seek help from professional consultants. On a couple of occasions, CHF BC has spearheaded group appeals. This year, we’re focused on providing information and researching trends.

Although we are not making any recommendations, we know of a couple of firms that have worked with co-ops in the recent past: AEC (Vance Leschuk, email: vleschuk@aecpropertytax.com) and Collingwood Appraisals Ltd. (Ed Landry, tel: 604-526-5000 xt. 225). AEC regularly participates in Housing Central’s fall affordable housing conference; Collingwood Appraisals has worked with the Agency for Co-operative Housing and multiple co-ops. The latter firm also worked on one of CHF BC’s past group appeals.

Some firms will charge hourly rate fees for their services, others may seek compensation based on the size of the property tax reduction they are able to obtain for their clients. If your assessment has gone up significantly, you may want to appeal.

The BC Assessment website has information you’ll find helpful. However your co-op decides to proceed, please remember the deadline for filing an appeal is January 31, 2018.