Philly still has roughly 8K property assessment appeals to review

The city received nearly 20,000 “First Level Reviews” following a three-year pause in assessments that led to widespread sticker shock

Rowhouses in Philadelphia’s Spring Garden neighborhood

File photo: Rowhouses in Philadelphia’s Spring Garden neighborhood. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Roughly nine months after the submission deadline, thousands of Philadelphia property owners are still waiting for the city to respond to their property assessment appeals.

As of the third week in August, the Office of Property Assessment had reached a decision on more than 60% of the 19,747 “First Level Reviews” that were filed for Tax Year 2023, according to the city.

And it’s unclear when the office will finish ruling on the remaining requests, which could entitle property owners to a property tax refund if the city lowers their property value.

“OPA is committed to resolving the FLRs as efficiently and accurately as possible, making sure each request gets properly reviewed and the process is not rushed. The complexity and amount of time needed to review and resolve an FLR can vary based on the information submitted by the taxpayer,” a city spokesperson said in a statement.

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According to the city, “First Level Reviews” require a homeowner to prove that either:

  • The estimated market value of their home is too high or too low.
  • The estimated market value is accurate, but inequitable.
  • The characteristics of their property that affect its value are substantially incorrect.

Property owners who filed an FLR, but did not get a response before the March 31 deadline for paying property taxes, had to pay their bill based on the newest property assessment. Released in August 2022, the latest round of values caused widespread sticker shock. Residential property values increased by an average of 31% after a three-year pause in the process, a gap partially caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chelsea Badeau’s two-story twin in East Mount Airy shot up more than 60% to $408,000. The increase raised her monthly mortgage payment by about $400. Her property taxes went up nearly $1,800, just as she was preparing to send her oldest daughter to college.

She filed a “First Level Review” last fall, and is still waiting for a response.

“I don’t think there’s any way that I could sell my house for $408,000. So to pay on something that is like a hypothetical just seems wild to me,” said Badeau. She said the majority of the properties on her block received lower assessments, including homes that are very similar to the one she has shared with her two daughters.

Coryn is also frustrated by the process. She filed her First Level Review about a year ago after the property assessment on her three-bedroom twin in West Philly shot up 50% to more than $390,000. She bought the property in 2016.

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The increase translated to a property tax bill that was more than $1,500 higher than the previous one — a significant amount for the full-time PhD student. She said she’s also holding off on making any home repairs because she’s concerned improving the property could hurt her chances of getting a lower assessment from the city and a refund, particularly if she decides to file a formal appeal as well.

“If the house looks too good, are they going to say, ‘See. The house is worth a lot of money. You have to pay this now,’” Coryn said. WHYY News agreed to withhold her last name to protect her privacy as she awaits a decision from the city.

“Maybe that’s crazy to think. But because I don’t really know how the system works, I don’t really know what they base [the assessment] on — if it is things like that,” she said.

Based on the volume of “First Level Reviews,” the city will not reassess properties for Tax Year 2024. That way OPA can focus on working through the remaining challenges.

The “temporary freeze,” proposed by Mayor Jim Kenney in his final budget address, means homeowners could once again experience multiple years’ worth of property value increases in a single assessment, potentially yielding another wave of appeals.

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