2009 property appeals face additional delay: last year's late filers
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Miami-Dade taxpayers waiting to have 2009 property tax appeals heard must sit tight and wait a little longer: before their cases are heard, the county's valuation board will hear late filers' petitions to be heard along with the 141,000-plus who filed on time.
Several thousand property owners are expected to have filed late appeals by the Nov. 30 deadline, and then those owners must appear in front of one of the 11 legal magistrates to demonstrate good cause for late filing, according to Miami-Dade's Value Adjustment Board.
But because all hearing rooms are tied up as appeal magistrates hear lingering 2008 tax appeals, the valuation board says late filers must wait until those cases conclude, which the board estimates will be by January, before getting a hearing date to determine if the late appeal will be accepted.
The delays put on pause property owners who filed their 2009 appeals by the original deadline Sept. 18, because the board can't hear those cases until late filers get their pleas heard to have late appeals counted. If accepted, those appeal cases will be added to the 2009 tax appeals in line to be heard.
With additional hearing rooms needed to speed up the snowballing appeals glut, Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin said Tuesday he plans to speak with County Manager George Burgess this week to seek more meetings rooms to adequately handle appeals.
Mr. Ruvin has said he is hunting for more sites to hear this year's flood of appeals. The valuation board already plans hearings in North and South Dade.
With 141,000 tax appeals already counted — and add to that the last-minute cases that can result from late filing — it's going to take a while for the 41 magistrates scheduled to hear 2009 cases to get the job done. That's especially true because some of last year's record-setting 102,000 tax appeals are still awaiting hearings.
Tom Dixon, president of Dixon Commercial Real Estate, a group that takes on commercial and residential appeal cases, has 200 of those cases pending review and estimates 2008 appeals won't conclude until spring.
But for many applicants, the potential tax savings if property value adjustments are granted are worth the wait.
For example, the 55-story, class A office tower Wachovia Financial Center at 200 S. Biscayne Blvd. was awarded a $286,600 tax saving after appealing 2008 property taxes, according to the clerk's records. A reduction was awarded after the office building's value was reduced from $123.9 million to $111.5 million.
Mr. Dixon cited an office building at 3901 NW 79th Ave. in Doral that he represented this year, helping owners save $18,870 on their 2008 property taxes after the building's assessed value was reduced from $4.3 million to $3.1 million.
Although savings are proportional to values and therefore much greater for commercial properties, homeowners appealing their taxes can also rack up reductions.
For residential properties valued at $150,000 to $300,000, for example, a 10% reduction in value could translate to a couple hundred dollars in tax savings, Mr. Dixon notes.
"It depends on the conditions of the house," he said. "Some will request reductions because of flooding in the streets. In some areas, they'll request reductions because sales have shown lower values."
But there's no formula, he said: "Every property is unique."