Dozens of property owners in the Lake Cowichan area say they have lost confidence in BC Assessment.
Among them are Youbou’s Wendy and Byron Webb, who said they almost fell over when their two small A-frame cabins that were built by family members in 1972 were evaluated at $373,000 in BC Assessment’s latest notices that were released in January.
The couple said they took two weeks to prepare for their appeals of the assessment and were instructed to upload their documents on the BC Assessment website.
Then they had a conference phone call with the Property Assessment Review Panel, which is appointed annually by the provincial government to hear formal complaints and is independent from BC Assessment, and a representative from BC Assessment.
“There were multiple issues with that phone call,” the couple said.
“At that meeting, the panel would not take any value off the buildings, even though we made a very good case. They did throw an olive branch of 10 per cent off the property value. We specifically showed how the property itself was over-valued when compared to the closest sale (there were only two) which, when compared, apples to apples, was valued much lower than ours. If our property was compared dollar for dollar, it would have been well over 30 per cent less.”
Realtor Jason Anson, with eXp Realty which operates in the Cowichan Lake area, is representing 29 property owners who are frustrated because many of their appeals of BC Assessment’s latest evaluation of their properties were dismissed at the first level of the appeals process without getting a hearing.
Anson said that’s because the PARP cited the appeals were too complex and overwhelmed them, and now the property owners have each paid the $30 individual fee to have their appeals forwarded to the Property Assessment Appeal Board, the second level of appeal for property assessments in B.C.
“Since January, BC Assessment has refused to engage in any meaningful conversations on the ‘merits of evidence’ with us and, instead, have been stonewalling the property owners every step of the way for five months,” he said.
While most homeowners across Vancouver Island saw about a 10 per cent to 20 per cent rise in assessment values of their properties when BC Assessment released its latest evaluations, properties, particularly those on waterfronts, in the Lake Cowichan area saw more significant increases.
Anson said neither he nor the property owners he’s representing have any idea why, after five months, there have been no answers or evidence provided by BC Assessment to the property owners.
“All I know initially is that [BC Assessment] deputy assessor asked me to stop emailing them the evidence and request for a meaningful discussion on the best evidence and analysis,” he said.
“Then the BC Assessment advocate shut the door on us because he wouldn’t commit to a meaningful conversation on the best evidence either.”
Tina Ireland, BC Assessment’s assessor for Vancouver Island, said she can’t comment on specific, or collective, cases that are under active appeal.
“What I can say is each year, homeowners can expect a reliable value when they receive their property assessment in January,” she said.
“During the month of January, we have an inquiry period for property owners to share their concerns and where we help to answer any questions. The 2023 assessment is based on market conditions as of July 1, 2022.”
Ireland said that, after contacting BC Assessment and/or researching its online property information, if an owner still disagrees with the assessment, they can file an appeal of their assessment by the deadline of Jan. 31.
“For an appeal, all of the evidence is submitted through the Property Assessment Review and Property Assessment Appeal Board process, not directly to BC Assessment,” she said.
“Once an appeal has been submitted, any inquires or questions specific to the appeal are handled through the PARP and/or PAAB process. At BC Assessment, we participate in the PARP and PAAB process but do not have oversight or accountability of these functions. Rather, the Ministry of Finance oversees PARP and the Ministry of the Attorney General is responsible for PAAB.”
Anson countered that the issue isn’t who the evidence is submitted to, the problem is that BC Assessment didn’t submit any evidence to the PAAB on his clients’ cases as they were scheduled to do on May 5.
“Regardless of who the evidence is submitted to, both the PARP and the PAAB recommend that you contact BC Assessment to discuss the best merits of evidence to avoid long drawn-out cases,” he said.
“BC Assessment has refused to do this to date, despite what their website says. I am wondering what the next steps are when a government authority pretty much thumbs its nose at everyone and just does what they want to do, or simply not do.”