Philly will finally start mailing property assessment notices (2024)

After months of delays, Philadelphia will finally start mailing out assessment notices later this month to its more than 580,000 property owners. The city aims to mail all notices by Sept. 1, according to property assessment chief James Aros Jr.

In May, officials unveiled the first citywide reassessment in three years, which will hit residential property owners with an average property value increase of 31% — and tax hikes as a result. Many homeowners will see much higher increases. The sharpest spikes occurred in gentrifying and lower-income neighborhoods with a high percentage of Black residents, according to an Inquirer analysis.

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But many homeowners remain in the dark about tax bill increases — and their legal options to fight back before the October deadline to file appeals.

» READ MORE: Philly property assessments are systemically inaccurate in Black and low-income neighborhoods

Property owners have been able to look up their 2023 assessments online using an online search tool at property.phila.gov.

But many residents still are unaware of the new assessments, which will be used to calculate 2023 tax bills. That’s different than in past years, when the city mailed notices in the spring. And without official notices, even homeowners who did look up their new assessments have been unable to ask the Office of Property Assessment to change or lower their values.

In the meantime, homeowners can still appeal their assessments before the Board of Revision of Taxes, which does not require a written notice.

Here’s what you need to know:

Homeowners have two appeals processes they can try

Property owners can appeal their assessments to the Office of Property Assessment, which sets the city’s property values in the first place, and the Board of Revision of Taxes, which is an independent oversight body. They have distinct processes and deadlines.

Typically, homeowners first submit appeals to OPA through a process known as “first level review,” and then appeal to BRT more formally, if necessary. But this year, officials have been encouraging residents to appeal to BRT instead of waiting for their notices to kick-start an OPA appeal.

Homeowners can appeal to both agencies simultaneously, provided they apply before their deadlines. Officials are expecting more appeals this year than usual as people hedge their bets with both appeals processes.

Deadlines are coming fast

Homeowners have until Sept. 30 to submit appeals to OPA, according to a city spokesperson. Despite the delay in mailing out notices, homeowners will still have four to five weeks to apply, which officials said is consistent with the time frame in previous years.

The deadline to submit BRT appeals is Oct. 3. That date — the first Monday in October — is set by state law.

OPA often doesn’t get to all first-level reviews by the BRT appeal deadline, but that backlog will be even more pronounced with the delayed notices this year. It’s unlikely residents will hear back from OPA before Oct. 3.

That means homeowners shouldn’t wait for a decision on their first-level review if they are considering appealing to the BRT, since they may no longer have the option by the time OPA comes to a decision on their case.

In the past, some appeals rejected by OPA have been successful before the BRT. As the two processes are now simultaneous, appeals approved by OPA may also be heard by BRT. If OPA grants an appeal and lowers a value, that becomes the new city assessment. If the BRT hears an appeal from there, it’s based on that revised assessment — which the board can increase, decrease, or leave untouched.

If homeowners get the outcome they seek from OPA first, they can choose to withdraw their BRT appeals, the city said.

Many homeowners are frustrated with the city’s late notice.

Michael Demayo, a 31-year-old bicycle mechanic and father, said his entire block in West Philadelphia saw over-assessments. He plans to appeal his assessment, but he worries his elderly and longtime neighbors won’t meet the deadline and will be hit hard when their tax bills come.

“It bums me out and I’m angry,” Demayo said. “It makes me upset that the city just dropped this bomb.”

Why are notices going out so late?

The city typically mails notices in the spring, shortly after a reassessment is finalized. But officials attributed the delay to “supply chain issues” facing the company it contracts with to handle mailing.

A nationwide envelope shortage has also strained other governmental outreach on everything from voting to motor vehicle registration.

Identify your best tax relief option now

In a statement Wednesday, Mayor Jim Kenney noted that he’s working with City Council to provide “substantial relief to homeowners” hit hardest by rising tax bills.

To that end, the city has increased the value of its most popular tax-relief program, the homestead exemption, to reduce the taxable portion of owner-occupied homes by $80,000 and tax bills by $1,119.

But as The Inquirer reported last month, many homeowners currently enrolled in other relief options stand to lose out on immediate savings if they don’t switch programs before the Dec. 1 deadline. And even with the increase in the homestead exemption, most residents will still have tax hikes.

City Council and the Department of Revenue are planning outreach to homeowners in the coming months about tax relief programs. But ultimately, residents have to do their own calculations to see which program they’re better suited for.

Learn more about the city’s relief options here. Can’t remember if you’re enrolled in a program already? Check your last annual tax bill.

Correction: A previous version of this article mischaracterized the relationship between separate appeals to the Office of Property Assessment and the Board of Revision of Taxes. If the Office of Property Assessment adjusts a property value first, the Board of Revision of taxes hears an appeal based on the revised value and can increase, decrease, or leave it as is.

Philly will finally start mailing property assessment notices (2024)

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