August 04, 2022

How to Successfully Protest your Property Tax Appraisal in Harris County, Texas

A run down property is worth a treasure for the CAD!

Spooked by your HCAD appraisal notice? If your noticed market value has been through the roof, and you are not happy about it, you are not alone! The annual Notice of Appraised Value is one piece of mail nobody looks forward to! However, just because HCAD thinks your property's market value is high, doesn't mean it should remain high. You can protest and get a reduction! This guide lays out the ins-and-outs of protesting your noticed market value with Harris County Appraisal District, provides you with concrete steps to better prepare your protest evidence and reduce your noticed market value. If you are a homeowner in Houston or surroundings, this guide is for you. Learn all about protesting your houston property tax assessment here.

What is HCAD notice of value?

Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) sends out a notice of appraised value to every real property owner during last week of March or the first week of April each year. Your value notice will tell you the market value of your property, as estimated by HCAD, as on January 1st of that year. The Market Value shown on the notice is what HCAD "thinks" your property would have sold for on January 1st.

There are more than 1.5 million real properties in Harris County! It is impractical for the appraisers to visit each and every property for the sake of appraising them. Appraisal districts very commonly use Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal techniques to appraise blocks of properties and arrive at an estimated market value for each property. Very commonly, these estimates are way off!

The appraisal notice is NOT a property tax bill! DO NOT PAY the dollar amount mentioned on your appraisal notice! You have to protest your noticed value to get a reduction.

Your HCAD Notice will show your property's address, legal description, account number and iFile number. Your iFile number enables you to file a protest online. Hence, keep your NoV safe! You can also scan it or take a picture of it and save to your cloud folder (Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive, Google Drive etc.). Your NoV also provides details of your property's characteristics like lot area, building square footage, number of bedrooms, baths, building class, quality and condition among other things.

How to protest property taxes in Harris County?

Once you receive your Notice of Value(NoV), you can start preparing to protest the market value that HCAD has assigned to your property. A protest is essentially a negotiation. Preparation of supporting evidence is the key to a successful protest. Start by gathering supporting evidence to back up your claim.

Confirm your property description in HCAD records

Search for your property on HCAD property search page and thoroughly review your property descriptions. Ensure they are accurate. This is one of the easiest ways to lower your market value. HCAD may have recorded your home’s data incorrectly. Check if your land and building square footage, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, garages, porch, canopy and other features listed in your notice are accurate. It is not uncommon for appraisal districts to have outdated property information. In one instance, the approved permit mentioned two half baths. But, there was only one half bath in the house. Pointing these out to your county appraisers is assured to reduce your home's market value.

Your property details page should like something like this:

Harris CAD property details

Pay attention to Building, Building Details and Extra Features sections. Confirm they correctly reflect your property.

Review applicable exemptions

If this is your primary residence, you must have homestead exemption. If you are over 65 and or disabled you should have those exemptions. If you installed a solar unit, ensure you have your solar property tax exemption. Your notice of appraised value will list your exemptions. If not, you can also search of your property on HCAD's property search page and confirm. If you recently submitted your exemption application, then you may have to wait several weeks for it to be processed.

Check your property for repairs

If the property is not a new construction, then you may have noticed issues with your home like a cracked slab, foundation defects, leaking roof, mold or termite infection, worn out kitchen etc. Take pictures of such areas and document it with your protest. Anything that would bring down the value of your property, if you were to sell it, will help you with your protest. Get in touch with a contractor and get estimate for the repair needed. Submit that with your protest. This will help you bring down the value.

Gather equity comps

By law, properties which are of a similar nature and character should be appraised and taxed uniformly and equitably. If the appraised value of the property exceeds the median appraised value of a reasonable number of comparable properties appropriately adjusted, then the appraisal district has to bring down the value of the property. Understand how to lower your property tax with an equity comps grid.

Gather sales comps

Since Texas is a non-disclosure state, sale price info is not publicly available. But, realtors are allowed to provide them to you! Get in touch with a local realtor and ask them for sales within the past year in your neighborhood. Most realtors will be more than willing to help you out with your sales comps, in exchange for your contact information!

How to file a protest online via HCAD's iFile?

While a paper protest can be submitted on Form 50-132 to HCAD, either via snail mail or dropped off to HCAD office, we strongly recommend you use HCAD's iFile online protest system. Paper protests require time and effort for HCAD staff to scan them and enter them manually to their software. Guess, who pays for this avoidable expense?! You - my dear the taxpayers! A part of your property tax bill goes to the appraisal district.

Moreover, filing a protest online saves you time and effort!

  1. Go to Harris CAD's iFile portal

    Harris filing a protest online step 1!

  2. Signup with your Account Number & iFile number. If you had signed up previously, then Sign In.

    Harris filing a protest online step 2!

  3. Upload your evidence pdf by clicking "Upload files" section.

    Harris filing a protest online step 3!

  4. Enter value from "Tax Payer's Opinion of Value" provided in evidence packet.

    Harris filing a protest online step 4!

  5. Under "Reasons for Protest", be sure to check:

    1. Value is over market value or otherwise incorrect
    2. Value is unequal compared with other properties

    Harris filing a protest online step 5!

  6. If there are any visible damages to your property that require repairs (e.g. cracks in walls, flooring or ceiling, damaged roof etc.) then check: "Incorrect appraised (market) value" as a reason and attach photographic evidence of the same.

    Harris filing a protest online step 6!

We found a YouTube video that provides detailed instructions on how to file your protest using iFile.

You have to submit your evidences, including equity comps report, sales comps, photographic evidence and contractor estimates on iFile.

What happens after you file your protest?

Typically, you will get a settlement offer within a few days via email. Keep a watch on your inbox and/or spam folders. HCAD uses iSettle to provide you a settlement offer. You will either accept the offer or reject it on iSettle. The settlement offer is time sensitive! You have to accept the offer within a certain time period, else it will go to the Appraisal Review Board (ARB). If you accept the value suggested, then your protest process completes here. If you reject the settlement offer, you are automatically scheduled for a hearing with the ARB, either physical or online. You can then submit your evidence to the ARB.

If you reject the settlement offer and decide to go to the ARB, then wait for HCAD to schedule your ARB hearing. You will get notified via email of the date and time. Again, be sure to keep a watch for that email. If you miss the hearing date, then ARB decides the value for you! And that will be the value on your notice!

If you do not accept ARB's decision, you can go for binding arbitration.

Can you reschedule your ARB hearing?

Absolutely! 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.

  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.

When is the last date to file a protest in Harris County? What is the protest deadline?

The early protest deadline in Harris County is April 30th. All Harris County homeowners are encouraged to file their protests via iFile before April 30th. In case you miss your early protest deadline, then the general protest deadline applies. The general property tax protest deadline in Texas is May 15th or 30 days after the date on the Notice of Appraised Value. e.g., if the NoV was dated April 20th, then you have till May 20th to file your protest. In case May 15th happens to be a weekend or a holiday, then the deadline automatically gets reset to next working day. All protests have to be received at HCAD by 5 pm central time on the last date.

For homestead properties, the early protest deadline is April 30th or 30 days after the date the appraisal district sends a notice of appraised value, whichever is later. If a homeowner misses the early deadline, the regular protest deadline (May 15) applies.

If I don't accept iSettle offer, can I go meet the appraiser?

Nope, that option is not available for online protests. If you reject iSettle offer, you will go to the ARB. Basically, everybody who protests gets two chances to resolve - an informal and a formal hearing. If you filed a physical form, then you can go meet the appraiser and try to resolve your protest informally. If you don't reach an agreement, then you go to the ARB for a formal hearing. With online protest, the informal meeting is replaced with iSettle. Basically, it is the same as the county appraiser giving you their opinion of value. You can either accept it or go to the ARB.

Do I need a property tax protest company or can I file the protest myself?

You know your property best! You can file the protest yourself. In fact, our study of HCAD protest data for 5 years found that homeowners who protest by themselves stand a better chance of getting a reduction! This is not to say professionals don't matter. Professional property tax agents or property tax protest companies are definitely helpful for commercial, industrial, mineral, multifamily or other complex properties. For a single family home, data shows, DIY homeowners have a higher protest success rate!

Save on your Harris county property tax!

At what age do you stop paying property taxes in Harris County?

You don't stop paying your property taxes! It's an obligation you should continue to fulfil so long as you live on the property. However, if you are over 65 and/or disabled, and have an "Over 65/Disabled Exemption", you can defer (ie., postpone) payment of your delinquent property taxes. You need to file a Tax Deferral Affidavit with the Harris County Appraisal District and your tax bill payments are postponed until you live on that home. Be aware that the payments are not canceled, they are only postponed and continue to accrue an interest of 5% p.a. Once you no longer own your home or live in it, you or the inheritor of your property, will have 180 days to pay back all the taxes, pre-deferral penalties and interest, together with the 5% deferral interest. If the taxes are unpaid even after 6 months, then the taxing units will proceed with their prescribed recovery steps including foreclosure, to recover their monies due.

Is Harris County property tax frozen at age 65?

Your overall property taxes comprise tax amounts levied by various taxing units in your county i.e., school district, city, port authority, community college, flood control, hospital district etc. Of these school district taxes generally form the major chunk. Hence, in a relief to senior citizen, Texas property tax code provides a provision for senior freeze, when a residence homestead owner reaches age 65. The school district tax amount you pay at age 65 will be your "senior freeze" or "tax ceiling". In subsequent years, if your property's value increases or the school district increases their tax rate, you will remain unaffected. However, if the school district property tax decreases, your payment will also decrease correspondingly. This tax ceiling guards senior citizen against unforeseen tax raises.

Now that you have understood the process of protesting your property's noticed value with HCAD, 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!

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