The Formal Hearings:

The formal hearings for the 2013 property tax appeals are in full swing at the Allegheny County Office Building in downtown Pittsburgh. The Office of Property Assessments is under Court Order to hear and adjudicate all 2013 property tax appeals by December 2012. As of September 2012, it appears that Allegheny County will be able to comply with the Honorable R. Stanton Wettick’s Order setting the completion date.

The County is employing up to fifty contracted hearing officers every day (including some Saturdays) to hear up to one thousand scheduled hearings per day.

Due to the large volume of hearings, there have been various problems reported in the amount of advance notice to property owners. While hearing notices are typically sent out to property owners at least ten days prior to a hearing, many property owners have been receiving these notices just days prior to the hearing, leading to obvious frustration and conflicts of schedules. Property owners who have not yet received a hearing notice regarding a filed 2013 tax appeal should be diligent in checking their mail and/or in contacting the Allegheny County Office of Property Assessments.

Property Owners are Still Making Mistakes.

There have been two consistent mistakes being made at the formal appeal hearings by property owners.

The first mistake deals with the type of documentation that property owners are presenting as evidence. Many property owners continue to present information about other assessed values on their streets or in their neighborhoods. While this certainly seems relevant, this information will not be very persuasive in an argument for an assessment reduction. The hearing officers are concerned with the current fair market value of the subject property, not how under-assessed your neighbors may be.

Of course there are times when comparing assessments may be relevant in the overall presentation of the case. However, it should NEVER be the sole basis for the appeal, and property owners MUST focus on fair market value of the subject property. Comparable sales establishing fair market is still the best evidence to obtain a reduction.

The second mistake made by property owners is that many people are getting upset during these hearings and taking out this frustration on the hearing officer. I have personally heard many situations where the hearing officer has attempted to calm down the property owner. There have even been instances where the Allegheny Sheriff has been called to escort property owners out of the hearing rooms.

Although it may seem like an obvious tip, the importance of a good attitude and demeanor of a property owner at a tax appeal hearing cannot be overemphasized. Property taxes are certainly a stressful topic, but directing that emotion at a hearing officer is not only misguided, but will most often harm your case. The hearing officer had no part in issuing the reassessment values. They are employed for the sole purpose of making a recommendation or correction to the Board about what the current fair market of the subject property is. Approaching the formal hearing with a courteous and considerate attitude can not be underestimated when presenting your case.

What’s Next?

All of the decisions for 2013 property appeals are required to be decided and sent out to property owners by December 2012.

Following a formal hearing, it is estimated that a decision will be issued within 60 to 120 days. It is very important for all property owners to remember that if they are not satisfied with the BPAAR decision that an appeal to the Court of Common Pleas ( the Board of Viewers – BOV) can be filed within 30 days of the mailing date listed on the official Notice of Disposition.

Property owners should be careful when appealing to the BOV, because contrary to the BPAAR, a property owner cannot withdraw a BOV without the taxing entities consent. Any time an appeal is filed to the BOV, the assessment can be sustained, lowered and/or raised. Therefore, property owners need to make sure they have a viable case for a reduction, prior to filing the BOV appeal.

If you have any questions concerning an Allegheny County property assessment issue, please feel free to call attorneys Nicole Hauptman or Noah Paul Fardo for help at (412) 802.6666 or email us at

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