Self-help topics available to members and associate members.
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This archive contains some useful information on how to appeal your property assessment, prepared by prominent Toronto lawyer and Queen's Counsel Bruce Haines. The file includes documents, forms, and general background and summary of the Assessment Review Board rules on how to proceed that may assist property owners in understanding the process.
note: In Ontario, The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) is a corporation operated by 444 municipalities. It is not a Provincial Crown corporation. It is an arm of the municipality . It should adhere to provincial law but this is not always the case and it is often worth the $65 appeal fee to lodge a protest when it over-assesses property. Everyone is entitled to a hearing. The burden of proof rests with MPAC and a hearing can cost MPAC considerably more than it stands to gain.
The Assessment Review Board (ARB) is a provincial quasi-judicial administrative body with the power to overrule MPAC. The ARB claims to be an "independent" body. However, the background of some of its adjudicators could raise doubts. The Auditor General of Ontario Annual Report released on December 6, 2017 finds: "Board members ranked low during a recruitment competition were appointed": ARB adjudicators are contract workers. They have no job security beyond the terms of their contracts. Consequently, there can be outside influences, work opportunities or job offers affecting impartiallity. A list and background description of ARB adjudicators in contained in the archive.
The Rules of the Assessment Review Board (ARB) should allow taxpayers to discover information that MPAC may not otherwise not want the taxpayer to know. Full disclosure is generally important when preparing for appeal in either of the direct or standard appeal streams.
It is important to recognize that the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) acts as an agent solely for the municipality and as such is not necessarily impartial, fair, or accurate in its task of raising revenue for the municipalities for which it works.
note: As a result of public complaint, in 2006 the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario issued a Report critical of MPAC's policies and procedures and property assessments were frozen until January 2008. Some key recommendations from the Ontario Ombudsman have not, as yet, been implemented.
-Globe & Mail-Sept. 2012.-Finance Minister Dwight Duncan reacted with anger to revelations that the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation closed up shop on Tuesday so that most of its employees could travel to Toronto to attend a lavish team-building retreat. “We’re going to have a long hard look at the future of MPAC,” Mr. Duncan told reporters.
- Ottawa Citiizen-Dec 2010- This week's provincial auditor's report into the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation's management is 18 pages long but it can be summarized in three words: They are incompetent.
-Queen's Park Report - February 13, 2009- Because these new assessments were determined at the height of the real estate boom, homeowners in Simcoe-Grey that I talk to feel that it is unfair to be locked into an inaccurate assessment for four years.
The purpose of the "Self-Help" topics in this archive is to try to give you some understanding about challenging MPAC's valuation of your property for the municipal taxation year.
For residential property owners in Ontario, unless a "Request for Reconsideration" (RfR) is sent to the Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) on or before March 31st , no complaint or formal appeal can be made to the Assessment Review Board (ARB) . Consequently, March 31 is a key date to remember. [See new Rules proclaimed January 4, 2016. The new Rule requires the taxpayer to file a Request for Reconsideration (RfR) within 90 days of receiving the 2016 Notice of Assessment] [see section 39(7) Assessment Act for tax years 2017. For subsequent tax years a-request for reconsideration must be filed by March 31st. Filing a Request for Reconsideration is free. Taxpayers then have 90 days after receiving a reply to the RfR to file an appeal with the Assessment Review Board, the fee for which is $65 if filed on-line.
I have prepared a Summary of the new Rules of the Assessment Review Board for Ontario which should help you in initiating appeal proceedings with the Board. MPAC knows that without an appeal you have no remedy to challenge them, and the process of initiating an appeal begins with you filing a Request for Reconsideration first with MPAC.
You don't need to hire a lawyer to attend with you before the Assessment Review Board. The attached summary should help demystify the appeal process. It will also help you in your dealings with MPAC during the "Request for Reconsideration." They should be prepared to provide you with the same information that they will have to provide should you not settle with them and proceed with the appeal.
So, what you want to do is ask MPAC for their data base on all actual sales in your neighborhood for that period. You can bet your bottom dollar that MPAC is accessing that data base. In fact MPAC probably has access to other data bases which have been paid for by public money and should therefore be freely available to you. [note: as of 2016, MPAC's "new, improved website" makes it more difficult. To get comparables and Property Assessment Data Sheets (PADs) takes 6-8 weeks. MPAC has decided that it will only voluntarily provide the PADs for the 6- comparable properties that it may have 'cherry picked'. (a sample request for PADs is provided in the archive).
MPAC allows the taxpayer to look up a limited number of properties on "about-my-property" but resists providing detailed information that the taxpayer may require to properly prepare a case. This is where the Assessment Review Board's Rules allow the taxpayer to apply for an Order. After the taxpayer identifies properties that support the taxpayer's claim for a lower assessement it may take another 6-8 weeks to get other PADs. One might suspect that MPAC hopes that people will either give up or miss deadlines or that MPAC's general strategy is to try to make it to a hearing without providing the taxpayer with any useful information. (The archive contains sample forms and information about how to bring a Motion for an Order for disclosure)
Make sure that you keep records of everything you do, and make notes of all conversations with MPAC's people, and with the people at the Assessment Review Board. Don't trust to your memory because information which you obtain today if not recorded will surely flow like water through a seive and be lost down the drain. Why not start by opening a file and placing this introduction in it?
Feel free to send this to like minded property owners who are fed up with being hosed by MPAC. You might consider complaining to your local Councillor and your MPP!
Bruce Haines Q.C.