JAMES W. CHIPMAN

Of Counsel

Is your property record card accurate?

June 21, 2018

An easy way to reduce your property’s assessment—and ultimately your tax liability—is to find and correct any inaccuracies that appear on your property record card.

The Illinois Freedom of Information Act makes property tax assessments and other public records subject to inspection and copying, with certain exceptions.* That’s just one more reason to periodically check your property record card for errors, discrepancies or outdated information.

Property record cards are kept locally by either your assessor or the county assessor. Most cards are two-sided and contain details ranging from a property’s age and size to its sales history and other data used to determine the assessment. With that much information, mistakes are bound to happen. Here’s a closer look at what you’ll find on your property record card:

FRONT

  • Owner’s name and address
  • Legal description
  • Parcel identification number (PIN)
  • Sales and assessment history of the property
  • Picture of improvement(s), if applicable
  • Square footage of the site or land, front footage and depth or acreage
  • How the land assessment was computed

Adjustments to the land may be made for factors that negatively affect its value, such as location, traffic, topography or aesthetics. Site information may include a “neighborhood” factor commonly used for calculating assessments—land assessments should be uniform for each property within the same neighborhood. Make sure the land dimensions are correct and cross check the assessor’s figures with any other property documents you have in your possession (i.e., real estate contract, deed, title or appraisal).

Finally, one often overlooked situation that can affect the value of your property is the presence of an easement, a legal right to a limited use of another's property. For instance, your neighbor may have an access easement to cross over your property to enter or exit their own property.

BACK

  • Drawing of improvement(s) made by an assessor’s employee who visited your property
  • Style (one-story, two-story, tri-level, etc.)
  • Construction (brick, frame or stone)
  • Number of baths, bedrooms and amenities, such as fireplaces, garages (one- or two-car; attached or detached) and basements (crawl, partial or full; finished or unfinished)
  • Building class and condition of the improvement(s)

It is critical to review and confirm all of the above elements for veracity.

Generally, for residences, each section of a dwelling is measured from the outside dimensions. The sections separate livable areas from non-livable areas, such as garages, basements, attics, porches and patios. Check each structure’s measurements and the math done to compute a total living area or square footage. This figure plays a key role in the assessment process, as it is used to calculate a unit value or price per square foot for the improvement.

Building class and condition are judgment calls made by the assessor based on the physical age of the improvement and the rating assigned to the structure definitely impacts your assessment.

The assessor takes all of the specific information obtained about the improvement and arrives at a “cost to replace new” based on uniform cost calculations. After current cost conversion and class factors are applied, the replacement cost is then reduced by a net depreciation which determines the building value and the assessment. Cost estimates, while an acceptable approach to valuing property, often times are not representative of the marketplace, and thus, are not the preferred method of valuation.

IMPORTANCE OF ACCURACY

Inaccuracies on your property record card may be the result of a mathematical error or a degree of discretion or judgment. A significant change in any of your property’s characteristics or features will most likely result in some assessment relief.

If there is no plausible explanation for an error, a taxpayer has several remedies. Consulting a property tax attorney is the best way for determining how to resolve the issue.

*Source: 5 ILCS 140/1 through 140/11.6