Monday, October 22, 2012

MPAC’s Tricky Request for Reconsideration Process

In Ontario, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) administers the property assessments used to determine property taxes. I just discovered that MPAC’s estimated area of my property is way off. However, the official Request for Reconsideration process is onerous enough that I probably won’t bother to appeal.

My fun began when my latest property assessment arrived in the mail recently. The form contains an “access key” which allows me to look up the data MPAC has about my property at their About My Property web site. This seems quite civilized. It was after poking around on this site for a while that I discovered that MPAC thinks my property is about 24% larger than it really is. My best guess is that this has cost me about $1500 in extra property taxes over the years.

The problem is that my property is not rectangular. The way MPAC estimates the width is sensible, but the estimate of depth is way high.

In a burst of optimism, I started poking around for the forms page and the particular Request for Reconsideration form relevant to me. The form begins by requesting some sensible information to identify me and my property followed by a section allowing me to explain what is wrong with my current assessment. That’s when things went off the rails for me.

The form then asks for all kinds of information about my house and property that have nothing to do with the problem that needs addressing. MPAC would have me running around measuring all the rooms in my house, calculating areas, trying to figure out what “cladding” means, and trying to decide whether the finished part of my basement is 1/2 finished or 3/4 finished.

The optimistic side of me says that MPAC will see that the property area is wrong and drop my assessment enough to save me about $125 per year. My pessimistic side says that MPAC will likely stand by their method of estimating area with some rock-solid logic like “that’s the way we do it,” and they’ll use the random answers I give to the questions I didn’t understand properly to raise my taxes.

Based on a guess of the likelihood of different outcomes if I appeal, I think my statistical savings are small, and all the effort isn’t worth it. I’ll just keep paying taxes on a big chunk of lawn that doesn’t actually exist. Congratulations to MPAC for cleverly coupling a Request for Reconsideration with an extensive request for information that is mostly irrelevant to the problem the homeowner has identified. This must cut way down on complaints; it worked on me.

34 comments:

  1. The effort is worth it for two reasons:
    1) You have helped other folks figure out whether it's worth doing or not.
    2) If you succeed, MPAC will have to alter their system to be even more arcane and less easy to use (thus making them spend more money).

    Either way you have helped your fellow man (or woman, as it were).

    Good on you, you are HUMANitarian

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  2. @Big Cajun Man: I don't think I'm enough of a humanitarian to do all the work of filing a Request for Reconsideration for no personal benefit. I'm content merely to point out that the Request for Reconsideration form is designed to discourage complaints.

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  3. Maybe you can send in a Request for Reconsideration for reconsideration of the design of the Request for Reconsideration form?

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  4. @Preet: That sounds wonderfully bureaucratic. Perhaps we should have a pre-meeting before the meeting to discuss the RfR for the RfR form :-)

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  5. Have you tried calling?

    My parents go through a reassessment every time the numbers come out because a major roadway is visible from their back yard. This isn't the case for the the neighbours on one side, so my folks' place gets assessed higher because they assume it's the case for everyone. One visit from an assessor and they change the value.

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  6. @Astin: It sounds like you're saying it's possible to call MPAC and have them consider changing the assessment of my house without having to fill out the Request for Reconsideration form. If true, I might give that a try.

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  7. you might try calling the "metro property tax consultants"... they do the reassessment and ask for some of the savings if they get any. All it costs is $60 court fee (you don't have to show up). We ended up saving about $275/year

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    1. How did you know who to contact? I am trying to find information out about this company and cannot find anything on them. I need help with this and was told to contact them but cannot find anything to research who they are?

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    2. @Anonymous: They don't seem to have a web presence, and the Better Business Bureau and other business directories have different addresses and phone numbers for them. Looks like you'd have to call them to find out anything about them.

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  8. Hi Mike
    It appears one can call about their assessment, judging from this MoneySense story (although it's from 2009). http://www.moneysense.ca/2008/12/01/taxes-fighting-city-hall/
    I contested my assessment a few years back. The process seemed to be doing everything possible to discourage grievors (e.g. onerous entry conditions, requiring payment of a fee to proceed to subsequent stages, etc.). After a few months, (a couple days before the appointment with the tribual), there was a call from MPAC offering a reasonably generous "out-of-court" compromise settlement (which I took).

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  9. @John: If the amount at stake was more I'd consider these guys.

    @Larry: OK, I'm convinced that a call may be worth the trouble. But I hope a resolution doesn't involve anything to do with a court.

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  10. Hi ... the trouble with the site (or perhaps it's me) is that I can't find the location in the site where they say you can post your RfR with pictures.

    Here is what they state on the site "he preferred method is to submit a RfR form online through AboutMyProperty™ at www.aboutmyproperty.ca. You will be able to attach documents, pictures and reports to accompany your RfR."

    Anyone else have luck finding this spot?

    Much appreciated.

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    1. I know this is late, but I just read your post and the web site is: tada: www.mpac.ca//contactus.asp You can add up to 5 attachments to your request.

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  11. @Stephen: The form I found (and pointed to in my post) is intended to be filled in, printed, and either mailed in or scanned and emailed. Text on the form implies that there is a way to file an RfR online, but I can't find it either.

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  12. Hi, You'd have to go to: Home > Contact Us to able to upload your form and attachments. However, I tried several times and it gave me an error. Does anybody know if it’s possible to drop-off the request to any of their offices?
    Than you.

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  13. I had to phone in to find out, but she pointed out the link is at the bottom of the home page, in the blue bar:
    "Request for Reconsideration" which redirects you to https://www.aboutmyproperty.ca/rfr

    From there you can submit your request for reconsideration.

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  14. I tried to do this in past. Found out that MPAC is more optimistic than CMHC and the work does not worth the saving.

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  15. Filing a request for reconsideration was a total waste of time for me.

    In Sept 2009, I purchased a gutted, former marijuana grow op from the bank. Bank appraisal for the home and property in its current condition was 151,000.

    The then MPAC assessment included many things…such as a finished basement (which was now gutted to the concrete) Bathrooms (which were smashed due to??), burst plumbing due to not being shut off for 3 years and no heat, walls, kitchen cabinets, smashed and or broken sealed windows, busted in doors (I assume from the police raid) corroded electrical, all water systems (including but not limited to deep well pump) and heating systems which needed to be repaired or replaced etc.

    In addition, on the assessment was outrageous monetary values for out buildings which my insurance would not even cover due to their disrepair.

    In short, almost everything made of wood, drywall, metal and glass had to be replaced.

    I sent them numerous pictures of the damages and a scan of the permit the bank received for gutting and mold removal of the grow-op along with my application, which I filed in November 2009.

    Their last assessment on the property dating 2003…which is 6 years, not 4….stated the value at 257,000 even though it was purchased for under 200000. I am paying Stoney lake taxes for a gutted grow op near Havelock On, not on water, no high speed internet available, no natural gas available, no cable available, no town water or sewer, transportation etc. Almost 400/month which is ¾ of what I pay in mortgage!

    Each time I checked on the progress of my application, it said they were still processing it. Finally, in 2011 an agent came to the property for what I thought was to assess my reconsideration….well it was not.

    They were here to inspect the results of a building permit which was obtained in 2005 for an addition (which was never built)
    When I told them that the bank had owned the property for 3 years and I had owned it for 1 and only knew of the permit issued in 2007 to the bank for gutting the grow–op, they were taken aback.

    I told them I had filed an RFR and asked then if they wanted to come in and assess the damages and see the permit? They refused stating they could only deal with one issue at a time!! They left unwilling to hear my case or give me answers regarding their return, other than to say they were a bit behind…I should say so…6 years and 3 owners later is more than a bit!!

    So here it is 2012 and my new assessment states my property value has further increased $30,000 and I have not heard one peep about my RFR, nor have they changed the description of the conditions or amenities that no longer exist .

    It also states that there has been no sale of the property in the past five years, nor does it list the purchase price I paid in 2009. The comparable homes which they list are at minimum over 30 minute drive away. None of the homes close to me and on my road which have sold are listed.

    As for the RFR I filed back in 2009, it is no longer recorded on the site…just disappeared into oblivion.

    Of course, since then, I could not allow my children to live in the house the way it was so some improvements had to be made and necessities had to be fixed. I have NO doubt that by the time I am finished all necessary renovations over the next 5-10 years (out of used materials mostly from Habitat stores and found on Kijiji mind you) they will finally show up and nail me for my upgrades and I will not receive ANY credit for the many years I have paid exuberant taxes for not even ½ a house.

    By then my taxes will out grow my mortgage (as now a developer is building high priced homes in my area) and who knows if I will be able to continue to pay for both. So much for my family finally finding a safe home to grow old in.

    Extortion in its most evilest of forms.

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    1. wow...you sound like you totally made up this story! Which you probably did cause you are bored and need the attention.

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    2. @Anonymous: That's quite an accusation. How can you tell? Do you work for MPAC?

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  16. @Sariena: Wow! Yours sounds like a case of total disregard for treating you fairly. Have you tried telling your story to Ellen Roseman? She sometimes takes on organizations with cases like these.

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  17. Well, I need to get on them again. They somehow seem to mess up our property details repeatedly, everytime they have a new 4 year cycle. It's like they throw everything out that they have and start over again.

    They seem to want to refuse to compare our home to any on our block which are really most comparabale so far as lot size, layout... and most imporatntly LOCATION!!! We're a little bigger than a couple around us, and you figure it would be a pretty elementary x number of fewer or more square feet adds or subtracts $x of value. They would much rather compare us to places blocks away with larger and smaller as well as irregular lots and homes.

    Seems like they've as well "hidden" how to go about filing an rFr. I've gone and submitted what I think should be an rFr through their contact page. There use to be a really blatant link that made it really easy to find and do so.

    They really are trying to make it frustrating to turn people off of going through the trouble to do so.

    Put in for your rFr's if it's not already too late when u see this. Last cycle they had us overassessed by enough to mean for a $3500 savings (or loss) over 4 years. That's not a typo I did say $3500.

    Push the buttons!

    Regards
    George

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  18. MPAC has shockingly - for more than a decade across Ontario - been in flat out illegal violation of section 9 (easements) of The Assessment Act RSO 1990 c a.31 . This affects the assessment of non-condo common lands owned in tenancy in common by POA/HOA owners with no "open public use" nor income producing activity.

    In MPAC's Region 2, MPAC actually began the illegal "pooling" of non-condo common lands' assessments AFTER at least the first of a half dozen ARB decisions finding such to be illegal (2002).

    The chaos this has inflicted on dominant tenement properties here and elsewhere, is substantial. It would be "title slander" if done by a fraudster or identity thief.

    MPAC's + decade of flat-out contravention of the Legislature's direction was still being fought as of Jan 2012 at a HOA several hundred kilometres west of here.

    On the fringes of the condo "parallel universe" of certain non-condo tenancy in common assets, MPAC suffered huge defeats in 2010.

    For the last 4 months MPAC has sat on application of a Reg prescribed to the Act, that would end the illegality as to residential common lands only (non-condo).

    The complexity of the issue is such that many dominant end user owners may lose their RfR rights effective March 31/13 unless they immediately act. Their POAs and HOAs usually do not have legal title nor the skillsets nor flexible attitudes to even address the issue, much less to understand it.

    Bob Driscoll in Lanark County March 25 2013

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  19. My objection with MPAC stems from the fact that their database is entirely inaccurate, particularly as it relates to finished basements. Virtually nobody gets a permit for their basement works, so MPAC has no record of it, doesn't monitor MLS listings to update their records (or trigger inspections), etc. - for my house, the basement was finished at the time of construction, so it is all recorded accurately.

    What is the result. My next door neighbour's house (which MPAC says has an unfinished basement, but is really finished) sells for $X. MPAC says "You have a similar house, but with a fully finished basement, so yours must be worth "X+Y" - and Y can be up to $30-50,000 extra, when in fact the two houses are virtually identical, and should be valued at the same level.

    MPAC is legally obligated to inspect every property in Ontario once every 12 years. Under the law, they have more rights than the police - they don't even require a warrant to enter your house. But, based on the number of inspectors they have, each inspector would need to be inspecting 6-7 properties a day (plus filing reports, travel, etc) to meet the 12 year obligation - and that ignores any inspections they need to do based on permits.

    I pulled up information from MPAC database on 24 houses that are currently for sale in my general area, and 22 of them had blatantly incorrect information (as opposed to the MLS listing). Not surprisingly, every one of them had an MPAC Value that was up to 40% less than the Asking Price. No such luck for my place, however, given that they have correct info on the basement.

    My view is that MPAC has no legitimate authority to assess the value of my house, when even the Auditor General has found MPAC to be breaching their requirements (including the obligation to insepct every 12 years).

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    1. did you know people can work on their homes without a permit! And since their homes are not see through...I'm guessing they lied to MPAC also and said they didn't have any updates. This is the reason half of the homes I am looking to purchase have finished basements without permits and are really badly done!

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  20. One more thing grievance with MPAC ... back in 2008, MPAC at least gave you a detailed sheet showing how the value was calculated, based on size of the property, floor area, number of bathrooms, porch size, finished basement area, etc. You could then see how each component of the house impacted value, both for your house and any comparison houses.

    For 2012, they no longer provide that report - all they do is give you the listing of other houses and their basic characteristics. Many of the items that actually go into calculating MPAC's value (porch size, # of bathrooms, ravine backing, etc) are not even listed on the report, so there is absolutely no way to do a meaningful comparison.

    Yet one more example of MPAC trying to make it impossible for anyone to file a reasonable RfR.

    Michael

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  21. Doing A Poor Job And Not comparing Fairly!!!

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  22. I need some advise. I bought this house in 2012, March 1 to be exact. I paid 257,000. The house was built in 1970 and was not updated except for a 14x 20 addition to the basement area that is abocwe grade but accessible through the basement not the main floor. Even the addition had not been painted and the plaster was cracked on all the walls as it was not taken care of. when I bought it the assessment on the property was 290,000, which I planned to appeal but did not know at the time that I only had 30 days to send RFR, so of course when I called (in 2012) they said it was too late,but if I waited until next year I could ask for RFR for 2012 under extenuating circumstances. (Actually not true, they will not go backto previous years). I updated the house and put an inlaw suite in the basement for my mother, I did not do anything to the bathrooms hers and mine as I just could not afford it, so they are still 1970 all olive green fixtures,outdated ceramic tiled walls, no shower upstairs, no bathtub downstairs in my mothers place. The cantina part of the basement leaked( previous owner lied to me) and so I had to dig it up and put weeping tile. And pour cement in the part of the basement that was left open to the ground (3ft x 14 ft). It still leaks but not as bad. The dble detached garage was a tear down as it had not been built properly and had heaved everywhere and cannot be fixed except with tremendous cost because the whole garage would have to be lifted adn an entire new pad with footings would have to be built. I had it inspected by two contractors/builder. One of them gave me a quote to tear down and haul away at $5,000. So inside the property I put hardwood floors everywhere, bottom of the line as that is what I could afford painted put new interior doors and built the inlaw suite downstairs for my mother also with hardwood floors. Both kitchens are small to med sized and I replaced the 1970's cabinets with again thermafoil white cabinets, (bottom of the line once again) but they look okay. I put pocket french doors in my living room and all the lights were changed, some time have to be changed as well. The two entry doors were not changed,the basement area was left the same. the floor is crumbling in places. I asked that I am the highest assessment in the area...well just about taxes coming in at close to %5,000/yr, for a 1400 sq ft bungalow on a street with ditches. The woman from MPAC has now set up an appointment with me for next Wed. to see the entire house and garage. I was disputing the assessed value of the garage as they have a $29,000 value attached to it. It is a tear down.... So does anyone know my rights in this regard or have advise for me as I really need it. I have a feeling that I am going to get sooooo screwed....Oh I also have a opinion of value from Re/max at $285,000. By the way MPAC's assessment is $330,000... I paid $257,000 March 1 2012 and Re/max value $285,000.Please help......

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    1. the inlaw suite increased value is exempt under the senior and disabled act. I found on MPAC website. You won't have to pay taxes on the increased value of basement while she lives with you.

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  23. I have lived in my house for several years. About 10 years ago I undertook a renovation. Three weeks after opening the building permit, MPAC was on my doorstep asking to see the finished building...the building was actually 1/2 deconstructed at the time. They refused to assess the value on the current state and instead kept my previous value. I was doing the renovation part time, working full time in the day and on my house all other times for about 3 years straight while living in a construction zone, unable to enjoy my home and basically working myself to death. I get to pay taxes on my home which can not be sold in the state it is in...probably just for property value and they knock on my door every 6 months, even though the building permit is still open... 10 years and I'm still not done...living in a dump and my taxes just went up 50%. They decided to retroactively increase my taxes saying my renovations are complete... I tried to 'request a reconsideration and found out the stupid little web form IS THE reconsideration...not just a request to have someone do a more detailed inspection. Now I find out I have to pay $75 to appeal? I also found out the square feet is wrong, so the stupid MPAC system won't even let me see buildings that are the correct size (it assumes the size is correct and blocks out data from other sizes)....so how can I prepare for an appeal?! What a load of crap. I work hard for nothing so far and why do I have to pay tax on it?

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    1. there is a 357 application you need to get from your City tax dept. They should have given you this when you applied for your demo or renovation permit. This gives you a tax break while you renovated ! Glad you read the material that came with your permit application.

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  24. Time for a reviewMay 15, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    I got my 2013 assessment showing an increase from 258,000 to304,000. My 2008 value was 258,00 but showed on the form as 290,000. When ask why 290k and not 258k was told it was an increase due to an upgrade in class value and the phase in value starts at 290k, which I have no rights to an appeal for the 258k to 290k. I applied for request for reassessment but it will be from 304k and the new value will not phased in . What kind of a system to we have here in this democratic province.

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  25. I would appreciate some advice on how to proceed with this. I got a Property assessment change notice from MPAC increasing my properties value from $151,000 to $246,000! I am familiar with their RfR process and sucessfully appealed another property 3 yrs ago. The problem is their reason for the increase is Previously omitted realty assessment which is a large shop i built in 2008. I live in a fairly secluded area so it was built without any building permits or hydro,septic etc. I am worried if I file an RfC it might create a much bigger problem due to lack of permits?

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    1. @Anonymous: I'm afraid I'm out of my depth for questions like yours. I don't know if you can get into trouble for failing to get a permit to build your shop. Perhaps you could just go to the city where you'd normally get a permit and ask your question (anonymously). Even if the clock has run out on getting into trouble for permits, your shop might lead to higher property taxes depending on MPAC rules and whether they find out. I think you need to seek out someone much more expert than I am at such matters.

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