Readers’ Scoop: Tax Appeal Experience Questions Integrity And Fairness In Town

Readers-Scoop-Logo smallDear TLS Editor. As you all know Lakewood had a reassessment done this year. Although many people had their property taxes lowered, unfortunately for me, mine went up 1,800 dollars. I felt very strongly that my assessment was unfair and wrong, so I appealed my assessment. My experience during and after my appeal make me question the integrity and fairness with which our town is being run.

When one appeals he is given a court date. On my appointed day, the town said that they were not prepared for my case and requested an extension. Convinced of the righteousness of my appeal and under urging from the judge, I foolishly agreed to the delay.

(Moderated), the main assessor called me a few days later and told me that he felt I had no case and I should drop it. I told him that that is a difference of opinion which is fine as the judge will decide our case. He then told me that he is raising my assessment by 45,000 dollars resulting in an additional approximately 1,050 raise bringing my property taxes up a total of almost 3,000 dollars more then last years.

I am outraged and furious at my treatment. The state gives everybody a right to appealĀ  their assessment and I was just exercising my state constitutional right. To punish me for doing so and raise my assessment even more because I chose to appeal is wrong and morally corrupt. To use fear threats and monetary punishment to get your way on a helpless taxpayer is just ethically and legally corrupt.

Although I have never sent anything in to the Scoop before this absolutely outrageous behavior made me feel necessary to do so, as I want to publicize the quality of our public servants.

I know thatĀ a couple of years ago under the old assessor, there were similar stories and under threat of a lawsuit she backed down.

If anyone has any information about this, or can otherwise help me, please contact me through the Scoop.

Thank you.

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29 COMMENTS

  1. If you have a case, you’ll win on appeal (including the most recent raise that you characterize as retaliatory).

    It could simply be that by inviting additional scrutiny by advancing an appeal, your original asessment was found to be in error (but not in the direction you had hoped).

  2. There are very competant attorneys in town that will help you on a contigency fee scale. You are not the only one who got (moderated)!!
    Woe to Lakewood that is being pushed to the financial brink.

  3. Why should someone who bought his house thirty years ago because it was cheap, now have to pay huge taxes because his neighborhood has become fancy schmancy? Someone who is living in an old house for years, suddenly can’t afford to stay in his home because of the raise in taxes!

  4. #5 has it right. In the system that NJ has (and it’s not a good system) you need to be careful before appealing because you may actually be UNDERassessed. Sounds like that’s your experience. The new guy has been great. Let the judge decide, isnt that what you said you wanted? Why are you coming to TLS now? tumult won’t change anything, justice will. hatzlocha

  5. The entire reassesment was a scandal! The township wanted to avoid the appeals that cost them so much. So they lowered EVERYONE’S assesment to below market value. This way no one can appeal. (It’s not enough to show that someone else’s assesment is even lower than yours, you have to prove that YOUR house is really valued at less than the assesed amount. NOW that’s impossible!) THEN the township raised the tax rate tremendously!!! Now they receive all the taxes they bill for with no fight!!! Why can’t we all join a class action lawsuit against the township? This is called unfair taxation and is illegal! It is true that a minority of homeowners got lower tax bills because the township unfairly lowered their assesments even more than others, but now the majority is paying more than their share, with no option of appeals. That is unconstitutional “unfair taxation” for the majority of Lakewood residents! (To illustrate: One new developement in Lakewood that still has just built homes on the market for sale for $400k was assesed at $300k for all homes sold in the last 6 months. Yet, those homeowners were billed more taxes for 2010 – at $300k than they did for the end of 2009 at the original assesed rate!) Let’s fight this!

  6. Sorry but you are not reporting the entire story. Good chance you did some additional work to your home since their last inspection when they did a reval and found some improvements therefore you are being taxed extra.

    Please let us know the entire story.

  7. Report what? your property is worth what it is worth PERIOD! It could be worth more than your new amount. What anyone says to you means nothing. Go thru the process like everyone else. You may just be upset taxes went up. Welcome to the club. But the reality is taxes are a way of life. Someone has to pay for services ……….
    The problem may be your house is to big. We all know what taxes are based on when we bought our homes. Thats the whole state, not just Lakewood.

  8. Seems there might be some information missing from the letter that was written….. did he do additions that may have added to his assement? Does he have a rented basement that was not assessed? Seems to me there was a reason for his assessment to go up if the majority of homeowner’s assessment went down. what is missing from this letter?

  9. “Mordecahai” (Your spelling – #13) Taxes are NOT based on when you bought your home! That’s just not true! The assessor’s office has based it on size, flooring, bathrooms, etc… Even if sale price is or was a factor, they reassessed most existing homes in Lakewood since their original assessments. They still officially do. The only recent change was the reassessment done recently, which was done by an outside company. They did not enter homes. They just assumed that areas or neighborhoods (As a whole!!!) had changed values, based on changes in the real estate market. The dollar amounts that they decided are not even close to the true values. ( As I commented above, most are way below market value in an effort to avoid all appeals!)

  10. #15, you misunderstood me. I am in agreement with u. Know what your buying no matter what you pay. Basically it comes down to the size and quality of your home. So if u buy a monster home u can expect high taxes no matter what u pay for the home. Location matters too, but not as critical in Lakeeood.
    Of course any ommisions or improvements add too.

  11. The bottom line is if you do the research you will see that the seniors all got their assessments lowered while the rest of Lakewoods went up.
    What happened to all the wonderful candidates during the election who promise us lower taxes but when get elected simply say their hands are tied??

  12. I appreciate evryone taking the time to comment on my situation. I would like to clarify 2 points that it seems alot of people are making.
    #1 Why do you care what youe assesment is-the judge will decide anyway?
    ON this I will say that the basis of a appeal is comparable sales. When I was in court I noticed that the townships method of fighting the appeals was to disallow almost every comparable sale. They did this by claiming either that it was a distressed sale or some other reason. The crucial point is that they did NOT bring any proof to their disallowment. For example they disallowed one persons comp. because they said the buyer was a tenant and such a sale is not called a comp in nj. The person appealing the judgement said that it is not true because he lives next door to the house and it was not bought by the previous tenant. In his case he had proof but generally you have no way of dis-proving what the township makes up and it is possible to lose your case even if you are right.
    #2 Many people asked for the specifics of the situation . I did not want to bore people with the specifics but will do so now. This re-assesment was not done by visiting every persons home. What they did to address the issue of finished basements is to assume that every home with a outside entrance has a finished basement. For example take a development like elmwood village,presidential estates etc. during the last re-assesment some people had finished basements and some did not leading to a disparity in the final assesment. This time they gave everyone the same assesment. The problem is that they DID NOT change the record in the township books that they have a finished basement. IN essence what this creates is a situation where 50% ( or whatever the real percentage is) cannot appeal because when they do they will be double charged for their basements once when they were reevaluated now and once when the township updates its books. To go specifically to my case my neighbors who had finished basements 4 years ago at the last reevaluation were lowered their assessments now by 46000 dollars (from a higher base then mine) and my assessment was only lowered by approx. 10,000 dollars leaving me and my neighbors with the EXACT same assessment. However this did not affect the townships books in any way so they now want to double charge me for my basement. In essence what I am trying to say is that if they based their reevaluation on a finished basement they should have legally been required to update their books. However because it was a outside company doing the reevaluation it was not done.
    What this leaves the township is a bludgeon to avoid having appeals because they can then double charge you

  13. I appealed on August 3rd. I used a firm that sent me a letter in the mail. They hired an assesor who value came in 115,000 less than the Townships. I am now waiting for Judge’s decision.
    I advise everyone in town to appeal with a firm who does it on a contingency basis.

  14. I am here 36 years and I bought my house cheap. Now I am a almost a senior citizen with a fixed income. My taxes went up almost $2000. I think it is an outrage!

  15. I bought my house approx. 7 years ago, taxes were $1700. That was part of my assessment when I figured if I can handle the mortgage etc.
    They re-assessed and brought my up to $5k!!!! this is an OLDER house, nothing fancy. Kitchen is for the most part 40 years old (I replaced the sink to 2 sinks and new counters – still evaluated as 40 years old in assessment though) We try to keep up the house but it’s nothing fancy, small rooms, 1 1/2 bathrooms total…
    My problem is the house I feel is assessed properly.
    The LAND is another issue. My land is an odd shape. Therefore, it’s worth WAY LESS in value than if you take the square footage. looking at all my neighbors’ houses , not even 1 can fit on my property! yet their land taxes are only 10k higher than mine. That is total insanity!!! and I cannot appeal because it’s literally impossible to find comparible sales and the main issue is the land assesement and they do not allow you to compare land to land, only package deal (land and house) to pacakge deal.
    Does it make any sense? Is this fair?!?! so now my taxes are almost 6k for what? a smaller older house on an odd shaped property???!?!?

  16. The system is broken , as a taxpayer you can’t win , the town did just that re-evaluated down so you have no grounds to appeal.
    I understand your frustration , A point I have made before is when home prices were on the rise and the town reaped the beifit tax wise with increased value and inflatted taxes why then when prices declinned did our taxes not reflect that with reduced taxes??
    Its a one way street and the home owner is always on the short end of the stick

  17. ” In essence what I am trying to say is that if they based their reevaluation on a finished basement they should have legally been required to update their books.”
    the township does update their records
    “However because it was a outside company doing the reevaluation it was not done.”
    the information collected by the outside company was merged into the township records. you have probably never been charged for a finsihed basement.
    “What this leaves the township is a bludgeon to avoid having appeals because they can then double charge you”
    there is no double charging in assessment. there only is what is there and what isnt.
    you are not telling us the whole story. for shame.
    now lets see if this post is deleted…

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