Property owners at times disagree with government assessors. They complain, typically, that their assets were appraised too high. That’s understandable, because a greater valuation equals a bigger property tax.
Wen Hu and Robert Wang didn’t agree with the assessment of their property—but for the opposite reason. They believed that their Burnaby house at 7060 Halligan Street was valued too low.
They were adamant that the assessor had made a mistake. So they took their case all the way to the Property Assessment Appeal Board of B.C. (There are two levels of appeal for assessment notices in the province; this board is the second level.)
The property in question was built in 1996, with a lot size of 33 feet by 120 feet. The one-storey house has a main floor of more than 1,100 feet and a finished basement of about the same size. Hu and Wang purchased the property in April 2006 for $490,000 and have done several upgrades.
According to the board’s decision, dated October 18, 2013, the appellants reported that since their purchase, “they refinished the entire basement, upgraded the windows to double glass, refinished the kitchen and bathroom in the basement, built a fence around the house, repainted the interior wall of the basement, upgraded the front and back deck, added attic insulation, and installed new laminate and floor tile on the first level”.
The 2013 assessment was $573,000 for land and $123,000 for improvements for a total of $696,000. The owners said that it should be more.
In the end, the board confirmed the assessor’s valuation. It relied on the evidence presented by the assessor on the sale of three comparable properties within 1.8 kilometres of the appellants’ house.
So why did Hu and Wang want a higher assessment?
Property-assessment expert David Nishi-Beckingham wasn’t involved in the case but obliged the Georgia Straight when sought for his opinion. He is the director of B.C. operations for AEC Property Tax, a consulting firm.
According to Nishi-Beckingham, some banks use the assessed value of a property when evaluating an owner’s application for a loan. He also said that some sellers may be concerned that their property doesn’t reflect market value.
As someone who has been in the property-assessment business for about 20 years, Nishi-Beckingham said that this is the first time he has heard about property owners complaining that their assets were valued too low.
Amused, Nishi-Beckingham said on the phone that this is, indeed, “pretty unusual”.