Property appraisal notices are going out across North Texas.
Dallas County began sending out notices on May 15 for residential and commercial property owners.
Rising property values have led to thousands of appeals and protest hearings over the past few years.
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But the COVID-19 health crisis means residents will have to make their argument differently this year.
“I want to talk about what we’re doing this year, it’s an interesting year,” said Ken Nolan, the county’s chief appraiser to Dallas County Commissioners this morning.
The Dallas County Appraisal District remains closed to the public amid COVID-19.
Property owners can file a protest online, in the mail or by dropping off their notice in a lockbox outside the building during normal business hours.
DCAD staff will not have face-to-face interaction with the public and will settle all informal hearings electronically via email or telephone, according to the agency.
The agency’s website states: ‘we strongly recommend that you use the online electronic uFile protest with settlement program if you plan to protest before the June 15 deadline. Submitting your evidence online in this manner will expedite the process.’
Protest hearings will also be held differently.
“What we’re going to do this year for the first time every is we’re going to have a one-member panel,” said Nolan. “We’re going to conduct hearings by telephone.”
Nolan said DCAD typically holds up to 29 in-person hearings a day before a 3-member panel.
“The average age of members is about 70 years old, mostly retired citizens,” he told commissioners. “A lot of them have expressed a whole lot of angst about coming down there.”
Will Wiggins is a senior property tax consultant with North Texas Property Tax Services.
NBC 5 asked if making your case before one person instead of three will be a challenge for protestors.
“It’s absolutely a challenge,” said Wiggins. “You’d like to have three opinions and a majority.”
Wiggins said he’s sat in the appraiser’s chair for several years, “listening to homeowners and the like and whenever there was a telephone interview it just didn’t have the same impact. I always felt I had the upper-hand in terms of my argument [as the appraiser] and I certainly still feel that way that being in front of the person is an important concept.”
When it comes to making your argument, Wiggins said it’s always important to request evidence from your appraisal district before your hearing.
“I would encourage people to highlight their key points of their evidence and make sure they get it in on time and make sure they don’t miss that hearing time,” he said.
In Dallas County, you can request an in-person, three-member panel hearing at the first informal hearing over the phone. But be aware that it may not be scheduled until after September 1, said Nolan.
As a reminder, appraised values are based on the property’s market value on January 1, 2020, before COVID-19 impacted North Texas.
Whether COVID-19’s impact on the real estate market can be used as an argument remains to be seen.
Wiggins advises property owners to look closely at the real estate market.
“If the sales truly indicate slowdowns and average price per foot for instance or median price per foot then you can start to see that in a certain area that’s relevant,” he said.
Nolan told county commissioners the full effects of COVID-19’s impact on local communities will be ‘fully reflected’ next January.
Tax bills will also be delayed this year.
Property owners should expect tax bills the last week of October instead of the month’s start.
Protest hearings and deadlines also vary from county to county.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.