How does the hearing process work?
Preparing for the hearing
The Clerk for the Assessment Appeals Board (AAB) sends a notice with the time, date, and place of the hearing at least 45 days in advance of the hearing date. If you will be unavailable for the hearing or if you will be late, you will need to notify the Assessment Appeals Board Clerk by telephone (650 363-4573) or e-mail (AAB@smcgov.org) prior to the hearing. You must personally attend the hearing or be represented by someone thoroughly familiar with the facts of your appeal. If a representative will be attending on your behalf, you may be required to provide written authorization prior to the hearing unless the representative is a California attorney or a family member (spouse, parents, children, domestic partner). Requests, such as the Written Findings of Fact, postponement request, and continuance request, must be done before the hearing. You are allowed one postponement request as a matter of right and it must be requested at least 21 days before the hearing date; if the postponement is requested after 21 days, a written request with good cause must be submitted to the AAB for consideration. If you or an authorized representative fail to attend the pre-hearing conference or the hearing, your application will be denied for lack of appearance. You may, however, submit a written request to the AAB for reconsideration showing good cause within 60 days of mailing of the notification of denial.
The purpose of the pre-hearing conference is to adequately identify the issues raised in the application and the data necessary to thoroughly evaluate such issues. At the conference, the AAB will set a reasonable time frame to supply the required information, allow the initiation of the exchange of information, determine the time required for the hearing, and set a date for a hearing to consider the evidence. The pre-hearing conference is not an evidentiary hearing and you are not required to bring or submit any documentation. If, however, you and the Assessor's Office have already arranged to provide each other with the requested documents/information (or if it has been determined that such documents/information will not be provided) and the appeal is ready to be scheduled for an evidentiary hearing, the parties should then arrange to contact the AAB Clerk to cancel the pre-hearing conference. If you or your agent fail to attend this conference, your application will be denied for lack of appearance.
How do I request an exchange of information?
Either you or the Assessor's Office can request for the exchange of information from each other. Under Revenue & Taxation Code 1606, if you are initiating the exchange of information, you must submit your request to the Assessor's Office no later than 30 days before the scheduled hearing and you must include your opinion of value and data supporting your opinion. The Assessor's Office will respond no later than 15 days prior to the hearing date.
The Assessor's Office, under Revenue & Taxation Code 441(d) may request for records regarding the property or personal property including the details of property acquisition transactions, construction and development costs, rental income, and other data relevant to the determination of an estimate of value.
Please note that only evidence presented during the evidentiary hearing will be considered by the AAB; information provided to the Assessor's Office will not be available to the AAB during your hearing and will not be considered.
What happens if I choose to withdraw my appeal?
You may request to withdraw your appeal at any time prior to the hearing and may do so by signing the bottom of your appointment notice or by submitting a written request to the AAB Clerk; however, if the Assessor has indicated that there is evidence supporting a higher value, you may not withdraw your application and the AAB will review the assessment at the hearing.
What if I reach an agreement with the Assessor prior to the hearing?
You and the Assessor's Office may have reached an agreement (also known as a stipulation) on the value of your property prior to the hearing. If you have been notified of a hearing date, you will be advised that you will not be required to attend. Once the stipulation has been signed by all parties (applicant, Assessor, legal officer), the written stipulation will be submitted to the AAB for review and approval. If the AAB approves the stipulation, you will be notified by the AAB Clerk. If, however, the AAB rejects the stipulation, you and the Assessor will be notified and your appeal will be rescheduled for a future hearing date.
Any documents you present at the hearing to support your appeal will be considered as official evidence; however, any documents that you had previously provided or had attached to your application will not be considered unless presented at your hearing. Evidence must be independent and relevant and can also be in the form of oral testimony, such as an expert witness; however, depositions are not admissible. Submission of a formal appraisal may be allowed as long as the AAB deem it to be reliable.
Evidence to Support Your Opinion
There are three approaches in valuing your property:
- Comparable Sales: If the opinion of value is to be supported with evidence of comparable sales (a sale of a property that is comparable to your property), these sales must include the assessor's parcel number, street address, date of sale, price paid, terms of sale (if known), and zoning of the property as well as characteristics of comparability including size, quality, age, condition, site amenities (e.g., view), and governmental restrictions. There are three general criteria used to evaluate comparable property: 1) the sale of the property must be an arms-length open market transaction; 2) the comparable property must be similar to yours based on size, quality, age, condition, amenities, site location and other physical attributes; and 3) the date of the sale of the comparable property may be any time before the valuation date but the sales of comparable property must be made within 90 days of the valuation date of your property.
- Income Approach: If the opinion of value is supported with evidence based on an income study, information such as gross income, expenses, and the capitalization method and rates employed must be presented. You must also justify the income projection as well as the vacancy and expense allowances. This approach is typically used for property which is purchased in anticipation of monetary income.
- Cost Approach: If the opinion of value is supported with evidence of cost, information such as construction costs, financing costs, date, type and replacement cost of the contruction, including all normal costs of construction such as building permit fees and other necessary costs, are required. If you performed the work yourself or acted as your own contractor, be prepared to add the market value of the project management work to the cost.
You may find it helpful to view the video prepared by the State Board of Equalization in preparing for your hearing. Publication 30 also provides further information on admissible evidence and the typical methods used to support your opinion of value including a property tax comparison work sheet.
Prepare seven (7) copies, collated and numbered, of any documents you wish to submit at the hearing. Note: attachments submitted with your application are not considered evidence unless you present them at the hearing.
What happens during the hearing?
The hearings are less formal than court cases, but you or a properly authorized representative must be present. Assessment Appeals hearings are open to the public and recorded. The hearings are held before the AAB in the Board of Supervisors' Chambers (400 County Center, Redwood City). Hearings usually begin at 9:30 am. but there is no official time limit to the hearings so be prepared to spend several hours. Be sure to be on time for roll call and be prepared with proper evidence and sufficient copies (7 copies). All testimony will be provided under oath. You may find it helpful to view the video prepared by the State Board of Equalization as to what to expect in a hearing.
The AAB Chairman opens the hearing and the party with the burden of proof presents their evidence first. If the appeal is owner-occupied single-family dwelling, the Assessor enrolled a value different from your purchase price, the Assessor request to enroll a higher value than what is currently on the roll, or is an escape assessment, the burden of proof rests with the Assessor's Office. The other party will then present their evidence. Both sides will have the ability to question each other. The members of the Board may also ask questions. It is your responsibility to provide evidence as to why the Assessor's value is incorrect.
If you have requested Written Findings of Fact on your application, an attorney from the County Counsel's Office will also be present at the hearing to prepare the findings in consultation with the AAB. Written Findings of Fact is a legal brief compiled by County Counsel explaining the Board’s decision and must be requested before the hearing. Please note that Written Findings of Fact are necessary if you plan to appeal an adverse decision in Superior Court. You will be asked to confirm this request on the day of the hearing before your hearing begins. All fees must be paid in full at the conclusion of the hearing. Fees are set at $500 per hour of hearing time or fraction thereof. For example, a hearing that lasts 45 minutes will cost $500.00. A hearing that lasts 1 hour and 10 minutes will cost $1000. You must pay this fee to the AAB Clerk with either check or cash.
What happens if I fail to show up?
If you or your authorized agent do not appear at the hearing, your appeal will be denied for lack of appearance and your appeal will be considered closed with no further action to be taken. Official notice will be mailed to you notifying you of this outcome; however, you will have 60 days from the mailing of the notification of the denial to file a written request for reconsideration. The AAB may reopen the appeal previously denied only if the applicant furnishes evidence of good cause for failure to appear as scheduled.
Board of Supervisors' Chambers
Hall of Justice
400 County Center, 1st Floor
Redwood City, CA 94063