Do assessors have the right to inspect your property’s interior?
By James W. Chipman
As an owner, you’re entitled to your privacy. However, denying a request for an interior inspection could work against you without a property tax attorney to assist.
Township assessors will begin giving all properties in their jurisdiction a look when the 2019 reassessment period begins on January 1. State law requires property in Illinois to be reassessed once every four years, while it’s every three years in Cook County. But just how close of a look are assessors entitled to take?
Assessors often gather data from a variety of sources in order to calculate your property’s market value. If there is not enough information, or in the case of new construction, assessors may ask to inspect the interior of your property.
LET THEM IN? IT’S YOUR CALL
Deciding whether or not to allow access depends on your situation. Letting them in could seem reasonable in order for the assessor to carry out his or her duties. On the other hand, you are entitled to your privacy and might see an interior inspection as unnecessary and intrusive.
There is no law in Illinois that specifically gives assessors a right of entry into your property without permission. The courts made it clear in 1986 that interior inspections are not required for assessment purposes, stating “[t]here is a distinct and palpable difference between inspections necessary for the public’s safety and well-being and an inspection to determine real estate assessments on private property.”*
In other words, your ability to exclude others is a fundamental part of your right to the enjoyment of private property. It can only be infringed upon in very limited circumstances when the government has a legitimate concern for public safety.
DETERMINE WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU
While refusing the assessor access is within your rights, that decision requires them to make certain assumptions about your property that may not work in your favor. For example, without an inspection, the assessor may overestimate your property’s size or miss deferred maintenance issues that affect its condition. If you believe your taxes are too high, it could be because the assessor made prior incorrect assumptions about your property. You can file an appeal based on the erroneous information, but the burden of proof will be on you to show that the assessment is wrong.
Property assessments are intended to reflect market values so equity and uniformity can be maintained. While market values can change dramatically between reassessment periods, once properties are reassessed, assessments typically stay the same until the next cycle, unless there is substantial cause to change them.
If an assessor wants access to your home or business, contact a property tax attorney immediately to determine what approach is in your best interests. It could very well be a situation where your attorney can answer and address any questions or concerns about your property without an interior inspection.
*Source: County of Fulton v. Property Tax Appeal Board of the State of Illinois, #3-86-0125 (1986)