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 but in 2017 some municipalities complained that MPAC has been overstating assessments, with the result that municipalities have been forced to refund millions of dollars due to successful appeals .. MPAC should adhere to provincial law but this is not always the case.
The appeal process requires that property owners must first ask MPAC to reconsider the assessment (which is free) by sending a "Reguest for Reconsideration before March 31st (a sample is provided in the archive) . If after 90-days MPAC does not reconsider, then an appeal can be filed with the Assessment Review Board of Ontario (ARB)... Everyone is entitled to a hearing and unlike previous years, the burden of proof now rests with MPAC. 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 but some caution must be exercised. .A Report of the Auditor General of Ontario released on December 6, 2017 finds: "Board members ranked low during a recruitment competition were appointed": The background of some ARB adjudicators is open to question especially considering ARB adjudicators are contract workers who have no job security beyond the terms of their contracts. 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.
New Rules that came into effect April 1, 2017 allow taxpayers to discover ALL information in MPAC's possession and control that MPAC may not otherwise not want the taxpayer to know. Full disclosure is important when preparing an appeal to insure a fair hearing.. It is important to recognize that MPAC 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) no complaint or formal appeal can be made to the Assessment Review Board (ARB) . [The new Rules require the taxpayer to file a Request for Reconsideration (RfR) within 90 days of receiving the 2016 Notice of Assessment for 2017 tax year OR by March 31st for subsequent tax years 2018, & 2019, 2020. Filing a Request for Reconsideration is free. Taxpayers then have 90 days after receiving a reply from MPAC to the RfR to file an appeal with the Assessment Review Board (ARB). The ARB fee 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 and all other assessments in your neighborhood for that period. MPAC records this information on easily produced spreadsheets as word or excel documents. 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 so-called "new, improved website" makes it more difficult. To get comparables and Property Assessment Detail Sheets (PADs) takes 6-8 weeks and often requires that the appellant obtain an Order from the ARB.. 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 may allow the taxpayer to look up a limited number of properties on "about-my-property" but only provides "Property Assessment Profile" sheets which are nest to useless for property comparisons, that the taxpayer may require to properly prepare a case. BUT when a property owner files an appeal, MPAC must then provide ALL MPAC's relevant documents. (the archive contains sample forms and information on how to bring a MOTION for discovery)
One might suspect that MPAC hopes that people will either give up or miss deadlines or that it is MPAC's general strategy to try to make it to a hearing without providing the taxpayer with any useful information.
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.