September 27, 2022

How to Prepare for an Appraisal Review Board (ARB) Hearing in Texas

What is an Appraisal Review Board Hearing?

Got your hearing notice? Wondering how to prepare for your hearing? Don't worry! You are not alone! Most new homeowners find it intimidating to appear before an Appraisal Review Board. But, you can ease the process by preparing well and presenting your evidence confidently before the ARB. As the old adage goes "Preparation is the key to success". This guide will help you be better prepared to face the ARB.

Let's begin by understanding what an Appraisal Review Board is.

What is an Appraisal Review Board (ARB)?

An Appraisal Review Board, or ARB, is a body of independent, private citizen appointed by the county's administrative law judge, for the purpose of resolving property value appraisal protests between property owners and the appraisal district. ARB members are mandated to uphold an unbiased approach to each property under protest. The ARB does not have any role in the appraisal of property or appraisal district operations. The ARB only has authority over protests submitted to them and must comply with the provisions of the Texas Property Tax Code and other applicable laws in determining protest outcomes.

If you have lived in your county for at least two years, you can apply to be an ARB member in your county. Serving on an ARB is a great way to give back to your community. Here is an example announcement from Fort Bend CAD:

Fort Bend CAD ARB member invite

Source: Fort Bend CAD on Twitter

Another example from Dallas CAD:

Dallas CAD ARB openings

Source: Dallas CAD ARB openings

To be considered for the ARB, you must apply for the position through your county appraisal district (CAD). Appraisal districts invite applications from resident citizen to be part of ARB during late summer/early fall for the following calendar year. The CAD then forwards all application to the local administrative judge for consideration.

ARB members serve on panels of either one or three and preside over property disputes between property owners and the Central Appraisal District (CAD).

The ARB serves as a neutral body who listens to testimony and reviews evidence from both sides to resolve property value protests. ARB members receive training from the Texas Comptroller's office. Members are compensated for hearings, meetings, and training, serve up to three 2-year terms, and must be available each term year i.e., May to September. Service on the ARB is not a full time, permanent position, but during hearings the members are compensated for their time and service. ARB members serve weekdays including some evenings, and periodically on weekends, typically from May through September. ARB members are not usually scheduled on every weekday, but must be available, if needed.

There are certain restrictions to participate in the ARB though e.g., if they are currently employed by the CAD or taxing units or those who have an association with the county government in some form. If they have already served their term with the ARB, they cannot reapply.

What is an Appraisal Review Board Hearing?

The primary purpose of an ARB is to hear property value appraisal protests and to make determination whether the appraised value is fair. The process for appealing an appraisal to an ARB typically begins with the property owner filing a notice of protest with the appraisal district. After the protest is filed, the appraisal district will review the protest and may counter with an offer. If the protest was filed online, then the counter offer is also presented online. Else an informal hearing is held with a CAD appraiser, either in-person or over phone, who will review the evidence presented by the property owner and may provide a counter offer. The property owner can either accept and close the protest. If you turn down the offer from appraiser, you are then automatically scheduled for a formal hearing with the Appraisal Review Board.

Once a hearing date and time is set, the property owner receives a notice of formal hearing, either via email and/or via postal service. ARB hearing date and time will also be available on the online protest dashboard, if the protest was filed online.

When will I get my notice about a formal hearing?

You will usually get your notice for a formal hearing at least 10 days before the hearing is scheduled to take place. The notice will list the time, date, and location of the hearing.

Can ARB hearing be rescheduled?

Certainly! In case you are unable to attend the scheduled ARB hearing, you can request it to be rescheduled. Individual homeowners are allowed to postpone their hearing once, without cause. And if good cause is shown, hearings can be rescheduled again, provided the Chief Appraiser or the Chairman of ARB agrees. Texas property tax code Section 41.45(e) lays down the rules for rescheduling hearings.

  1. Request to reschedule should be made prior to the date of the hearing.

  2. The property owner is representing himself/herself and is not represented by an Agent. If an Agent is representing you, then the agent should request reschedule.

  3. Hearings can be rescheduled to a date not less than 5 days or more than 30 days from the originally scheduled date.

  4. You can request to reschedule either via phone, email, writing or in person.

What if you missed your ARB hearing date?

In case your miss your ARB hearing, you will have to file a written statement with the ARB, within 4 days from the date when your hearing was scheduled, showing good cause and seek a new hearing date. The Chairman of the ARB then decides whether to accept your petition and set a new hearing date for you.

What evidence should a homeowner bring to the ARB hearing (formal hearing)?

Wondering what to take to an ARB protest hearing? Good evidence to bring to the ARB include:

  1. If the home was purchased in the past year, then bring the closing document, showing the sale price and sale date.

  2. Photos of damages, if any, to the property.

  3. Repair estimates from a licensed contractor, preferably 3 bids from different contractors, if your property needs repairs.

  4. Sales comps from your neighborhood.

  5. Equity Comps for unequal appraisal protest.

  6. Appraisal report from a professional appraiser, if possible. Professional appraisal reports are expensive costing > $500. Compare this with your expected value reduction and decide if it makes sense to get a professional appraisal done.

Bring 4 copies of evidence and 2 copies of photos to the hearing.

How is the Appraisal Review Board Hearing conducted?

An ARB hearing panel typically consists of five members - three members from the ARB, a county appraiser and the homeowner( or a representative). Each hearing panel is headed by a Chairperson. A protest hearing takes about 15 minutes. Each side will have about 5 minutes to present their evidence, rebuttal and closing statement. Typically, a formal hearing with the ARB begins by the chair introducing themselves, and then the members introducing themselves followed by the appraiser introduces him/her self. The chair of the panel then reads out the account and confirms the account subject under protest. The chair then begins by asking the homeowner what their opinion of value is. Homeowner then states their opinion and backs it up with the evidence they have. The CAD appraiser will then get an opportunity to counter it with the noticed appraisal value and present their evidence. The property owner then gets a chance to give a rebuttal or counter the evidence that the CAD presented. Then the appraiser gets another chance to counter the evidence/facts given by homeowner. This may continue for one or two more passes. After all evidences are presented and testimonies recorded, the ARB will take a few minutes to review all evidences and facts presented and announce a verdict orally. ARB is required by law to provide an oral verdict after the conclusion of each hearing. They will also send out their decision by certified mail in due course. In addition, you can check and confirm your outcome either on the online protest portal and/or via email.

Tips to be successful at the protest hearing:

  1. Stay calm and articulate your reasoning logically. Be clear and concise. If your basis is unequal appraisal or sales comps, present the comps and show them the calculations.

  2. Avoid getting emotional. Be professional and courteous. You have one hearing. But ARB will go through dozens of hearings every day. Be nice and empathetic.

  3. Each party i.e., the Homeowner and the Appraiser take turns presenting their evidence and/rebutting the other party.

  4. Once evidences are done, each party will provide a testimony and/or closing statement. Be sure to cover all evidences and reasons before your closing statement. No new evidence is admissible after the closing statements.

  5. Be mindful of your 5-minute time limit.

  6. Put forth convincing arguments. Back it up with facts and figures.

  7. If you bought in the last year, show them your closing statement. Appraisers will likely match your purchase price or time adjust it till Jan 1st. Caveat - this applies only to a regular sale. Does not apply to foreclosures and family sales.

  8. Be respectful and professional at all times during the hearing.

When you protest, be sure to request CAD's evidence prior to hearing. As per Texas property tax code, CADs have to provide their evidence to the protesting homeowner at least 14 days prior to the hearing. If you filed your protest online, then CADs typically upload their evidence therein. You can review it and prepare your rebuttal. CADs will upload their sales and equity comps. Review their comps and make sure the comps:

  1. are within a reasonable distance from your home (say, < 1 mile)

  2. are similar in size (land and improvements)

  3. have the same number of floors.

  4. have almost the same bedrooms and bathrooms. (a 3 bed, 2 bath can be compared to a 3 bed 2.5 bath, but not to a 4 bed, 3 bath).

  5. are almost the same age, quality and desirability.

If you have concerns/objections on the comps that the CAD provided, then bring it to the attention of the ARB. That will help establish the inferiority of their comps.

We have seen instances where CADs assign a desirability of "Excellent" to a property even if there has been no remodeling done recently. In one instance, a property built in 1960, went through extensive remodeling in 2000, when the CAD changed the desirability rating to "Very Good". But even in 2022, they retained the "Very Good" rating and forgot to lower the desirability. It was 22 years since the remodeling was done and the property had undergone wear and tear, reducing its desirability. Bring such things to the notice of the ARB and ask that your desirability rating be lowered.

After your hearing is complete, you will be presented with a survey where you can give feedback on your experience with the ARB.

How do I prepare for a protest hearing?

There are a few things you can do to prepare for a protest hearing:

  1. Gather any supporting evidence that you have (e.g., sales data, equity comps, repair estimates, photos, etc.). This will help you make your case during the hearing.

  2. If you bought in the last year, then get your closing statement ready.

  3. Review CAD's evidence and check if the comps they presented are suitable.

  4. Review our article on tips to a successful property tax protest.

What happens if I do not appear for my formal hearing?

If you absent yourself from the hearing, then the Appraisal Review Board will dismiss your protest and the appraisal district's noticed market value prevails.

Where are ARB hearings conducted?

ARB hearings may be conducted either in-person, by phone, or via video conference. In-person hearings were the standard way to conduct a formal protest hearing, until the Covid pandemic stuck. ARBs then transitioned to remote online hearings. Thereafter, property owners typically get the option to choose either an in-person or a remote online hearing.

What to expect at an in-person hearing:

In-person hearings are typically held in a conference room at the appraiser's office. The hearing will be presided over by a panel of three appraisers, and the parties involved will have an opportunity to present their case and counter the evidence presented by the other party.

What to expect at a phone hearing:

Phone hearings are less formal than in-person hearings, but they follow the same general format. The panel of appraisers will call the parties involved and hear their presentations over the phone.

What to expect at a video conference hearing:

Video conference hearings have become common post-covid pandemic. They allow all parties involved to see each other via webcam. This can be helpful to the homeowners and are a viable solution if the homeowner resides in a different county/state than their property.

What should you do after an Appraisal Review Board Hearing?

If the ARB reduced your noticed market value, then you will receive a revised notice of market value. That brings your property tax protest to a closure. You don't need to do anything else. Wait for your property tax bill to arrive (late fall) and prepare to pay the tax bill. In case the ARB refused to reduce your market value, then you can either accept the noticed market value or enter into a binding arbitration.

What if I cannot attend my ARB hearing?

If you requested to attend an in-person ARB hearing, you may be able to change it to an online hearing. In case the date and time is not suitable, you can request the ARB to reschedule your hearing.

I can't attend my ARB hearing in person. Can request a remote hearing?

Absolutely! You can request a remote hearing either through a teleconference or through video conferencing. However, be sure to send an Unsworn Declaration to the ARB before the hearing. Contact the appraisal district and check with them if they accept the unsworn declaration via email or if you need to mail it. Your online protest dashboard may also let you upload it there. But, be sure to confirm from the CAD that your Unsworn Declaration is on file, a couple of days prior to the hearing. There have been many instance where ARBs have denied a fair hearing to the homeowner claiming their declaration is not on file.

Tarrant County Unsworn Declaration

Bexar County Unsworn Declaration

Should I choose a single member ARB panel or the full three member ARB panel?

An ARB can conduct hearings in single member panels upon written request of the property owner. The property owner can include the request in the notice of protest or submit a separate written request not later than 10 days before the hearing date.

Single-member panels must make a recommendation on each motion submitted under protest. The ARB will ultimately accept the panel’s determination, make it’s own determination on the protest, or refer the matter for rehearing to a single-member panel composed of someone who did not hear the original protest.

Beginning 2022, Harris CAD's iFile has begun to offer property owners the option to pick either a single member panel or the full ARB panel while submitting their protest online.

There is no recommended approach to take. YMMV. If you are comfortable presenting before the full ARB, you can choose that. Else, if you prefer to talk to one person, then you can choose a single member ARB panel.

Who appoints the Appraisal Review Board members?

ARB members in each county are appointed by the local administrative district judge. County Appraisal Districts invite applications once a year from resident individuals to serve on the ARB. Any individual who has been a resident of that county for the past two years is eligible to apply.

Now that you have understood the process of an Appraisal Review Board Hearing, you can begin your preparation by getting your equity comps report. It barely takes 2 minutes. Just enter your address and check our computed median appraised value in your neighborhood. Our comps report is backed by our 100% money back guarantee!

Can the ARB raise my market value at the hearing?

Nope, ARB cannot raise the appraised value of the property, unless the property owner requests it! Ref: Senate Bill 2 of 2019.

"The bill prohibits an ARB from determining the appraised value of a property that is the subject of a protest to be an amount greater than the property's appraised value as shown in the submitted appraisal records, except as requested and agreed to by the property owner."

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Articles presented here are for general information and education only. It is provided as a courtesy to the general public. SQD Taxtech LLC does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates or projections given are those of the authors or persons quoted as of the date of the article with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change. This article may not be reproduced, distributed or further published by any person without the written consent of SQD Taxtech LLC. Please cite source when quoting.

SQD Taxtech LLC, its managed affiliates and subsidiaries, as a matter of policy, do not give tax, accounting, regulatory or legal advice. Rules in the areas of law, tax, and accounting are subject to change and open to varying interpretations. You should consult with your other advisors on the tax, accounting and legal implications of actions you may take based on any strategies presented, taking into account your own particular circumstances.