Chicago property taxes may skyrocket, but you can appeal your assessment

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone via WLS logo
Thursday, May 24, 2018
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It's likely your property taxes will be going up. Some Chicago homeowners have received their assessment letters and are seeing increases ranging from 6 up to 60 percent.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's likely your property taxes will be going up. Some Chicago homeowners have received their assessment letters and are seeing increases ranging from 6 up to 60 percent.

But the I-Team found out how you can fight those increases.

North Center homeowner and realtor Maribel Selva's most recent annual property tax bill was almost $10,000. She just received a new assessment letter with a steep increase.

"Thirty-eight-point-eight percent, that's a whopping number," Selva said. "How do you justify this? And what happens to the bigger picture of our community? What about the people who have to leave because of the tax increase?"

Lakeview and Rogers Park townships were the first to get the reassessment letters, and the increases are as big as 60 percent.

"If the density is not here and people are not looking to move into our neighborhood because everything is so pricey, then it affects us in every way. There are just no winners," Selva said.

Reassessments are done every three years and are based on the previous three years of sales activity and market for similar homes in that particular neighborhood. This year, 2018, is a reassessment year for all of Chicago, so homeowners will receive notices from the Cook County Assessor's Office.

But that notice is not the final decision.

"The appeal process is designed to fine tune assessments when appropriate, which we are happy to consider," said Tom Shaer with the Cook County Assessor's Office.

Real estate tax attorney William Saranow walked the I-Team through the appeals process.

Jason Knowles: "If people get that new assessment and are in sticker shock, are there things they can do?"

Saranow: "They will have 30 days to file an appeal at the Cook County Assessor's Office and I definitely recommend that they do so, or at least look to see if they are fairly assessed or not, and that's just the first step in the process."

The assessor's office said most property owners file themselves, but you can hire an attorney. Most attorneys charge a contingency fee, based on the first year's savings. Some have an upfront fee.

Saranow said that if an appeal doesn't lower your taxes, there are more options. You can appeal at the Cook County Board of Review, a separate agency from the assessor. If that doesn't work, there's a third option.

"If they are not satisfied at the board level, then they can take the step to file at the Property Tax Appeal Board in Springfield at the administrative level, or they can file at the Circuit Court of Cook County. That is more litigious, that process has a filing fee involved, so I would recommend to file at the Property Tax Appeal Board if they are still not satisfied; that's all free. There is no filing fee at the assessor's office, at the board of review and the property tax appeals board," Saranow said.

If your appeal successfully lowers your taxes, you'll see that when you get your second property tax installment.

Your assessment is mostly based on the market value of your home. You can research recent sales of similar homes in your neighborhood and use that data to argue your point for a lower assessment. The assessor's office says that 51 percent of residential appeals are successful.

If you are successful in one of your appeals, the reduction will be reflected on the second-installment tax bills to be mailed in the summer of 2019.


To appeal online go to:

A.) Appeals are for the purpose of reducing the Assessor's valuation of a property. They do not automatically reduce a future tax bill. Dollar amounts of tax bills are decided by the tax rates and levies in individual communities (school districts, etc.). Most property tax revenue goes to public schools.

B.) For homes, assessed Value is 1/10th of market value. For businesses, it is 1/4 of market value.

1.) Valuations of homes are based on the Assessor's Office analysis of the preceding three years of sales and market conditions for similar homes in the same neighborhood. Each neighborhood has its own code in the Assessor's Office system; there are many neighborhoods in each township.

Note: "Preceding three years" means the three years ended December 31, 2017. The reassessment letters for Chicago townships are going out this year (2018) but they are not based on 2018. They are based on 2015-2016-2017, years of growth for the vast majority of Chicago real estate.

The previous reassessment figures sent out in the 2015 Triennial were based on 2012-2013-2014. 2012-2013 was coming off the worst real estate crash since the Great Depression, so those previous assessed values were low - because the market was artificially low.

1a.) If someone "loses" an appeal and does not receive a reduction, their assessed value will NOT go up. It stays the same for the three years between triennials (unless they appeal the following year and win).

2.) Anyone not happy with the results of their appeal to the Assessor's Office can take the next of appealing to the Cook County Board of Review, an independently-elected, quasi-judicial body.

3.) By law, the Board of Review can take into consideration factors the Assessor's Office is not allowed to use.

4.) Homeowners do not need an attorney to appeal and there is no fee. Businesses also do not need an attorney to appeal to the Assessor's Office but business do need an attorney to appeal the Board of Review. So, business usually decide to use an attorney all the way around for consistency.

Someone appealing does NOT have to (do) the work. The assessor's office will look up comparable properties for them. If someone wants to submit their own list of comparables, that is, of course, fine. We just make it clear that appellants don't have to worry about how "long" it'll take to file an appeal. It is a one-sided form which takes approximately five minutes.

5.) Most homeowners appealing to the Assessor's Office do not use an attorney.

6.) Most successful appeals to the Assessor's Office did not use an attorney.

7.) Approximately 51 percent of residential appeals to the Assessor's Office are successful; the amount of reduction varies, however.

That does not mean 51% of all homes in Cook County receive reductions. Please keep in mind that, last year, only 14% of single-family homes appealed their valuations. 51% (approximately half) of them received reductions-via-appeal....which means 7% of homes --half of that original 14% appealing-- in Cook County were reduced on appeal.

8.) Online appeals were begun under Joe Berrios years ago and they are still an option.