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In the last column I talked about the protest process – the meeting with an appraiser and a bit about the hearing with the Appraisal Review Board.  Now I’d like to describe the hearing process in a little more detail so you know what to expect.

Some people may be nervous about having a hearing.  Don’t be.  Even though it’s more structured than the meeting with the appraiser, the review board members try to make the property owner feel comfortable.

The first thing to remember is that the Appraisal Review Board is separate from the appraisal district.  The Appraisal Review Board was created to resolve disputes between the appraisal district and the property owner.

Appraisal district employees and ARB members are allowed very little interaction.  In fact, ARB members are prohibited from discussing a property owner protest with anyone outside the hearing.

The ARB hearings are held in the HCAD building but the members of the ARB are Harris County citizens chosen by a state administrative judge.  There is a short 3-minute video on our website at www.hcad.org that talks about the “Role of the Appraisal Review Board” and could provide some helpful insight for you.

At the hearing, you and the appraisal district staff are required to exchange evidence.  You will present your evidence before a three-member ARB panel.  The appraisal district then presents its evidence.  The ARB panel will then make a decision based on the issues protested.  That decision then must be approved before the full ARB at its monthly meeting before the decision becomes final.

Remember to bring at least four copies of your evidence; one for each member of the ARB panel and one for the HCAD appraiser.  Know what you’re going to say beforehand and don’t get stuck on a single point because the hearings go very quickly – many are less than 15 minutes.

Examples of evidence that you could bring include problems with your house, such as a damaged roof or a cracked slab, or problems with your property such as frequent flooding or a fault line through the middle of your lot.  Try to compare your home to other similar homes in your neighborhood.  Remember that if you bring photos, make sure you have paper copies and not digital photos because you won’t be able to pass around your smartphone photos in the time allotted.

Also don’t forget that January 1 is the date your appraisal is based on, so you would be protesting the market value of your property as of that date.  Any improvements, damage or changes to your property after January 1 should not be part of the protest.

Roland Altinger is the Chief Appraiser of the Harris County Appraisal District

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