How to File a Complaint

Changes to the Assessment Complaint Process

As of January 1, 2010, the Assessment Complaint and Appeal process has changed.

The Assessment Complaints and Appeals Regulation (AR 310/2009) came into effect in 2010. This regulation sets out the procedures and guidelines to be followed by the complainant and the respondent, as well as the board hearing the appeal.

The following is a brief summary of some of the changes.

One Level of Appeal – There will now only be one level of appeal.  Assessment Complaints will be heard by one of the following Review Boards:

  • Local Assessment Review Board (LARB) Members are appointed by the County to hear assessment complaints about Farmland and Residential properties with up to three dwelling units.
  • Composite Assessment Review Board (CARB) – Two Members are appointed by the County and one member is appointed the Minister of Municipal Affairs. This board will hear assessment complaints about Residential properties with four or more dwelling units, M&E and non-residential property (other than linear).
  • Municipal Government Board (MGB) - Members are appointed the Minister of Municipal Affairs. This board will hear assessment complaints about linear property.

Time of complaints and Appeal Hearings

  • Complaint must be filed within 60 days of the date of mailing (previously was 30 days)
  • Decisions of a Complaint hearing must be issued prior to the end of the assessment year

Access to Property Assessment Information

A taxpayer has the right to receive or see all assessment-related information about their own property. Section 299 of the Municipal Government Act entitles you to see or receive sufficient information to show how the assessor prepared the assessment of your property, including;

  • all documents, records and other information in respect of your property that the assessor has in their possession or under their control,
  • key factors, components and variables of the valuation model used in preparing the assessment of your property, and
  • any other information prescribed or otherwise described in the regulations.

A taxpayer has the right to receive a summary of information on properties similar to theirs. They are not entitled to receive unlimited information or information that is not related to the current tax year. Section 300 of the Municipal Government Act entitles you to receive a summary of information on properties similar to yours, including;

  • a description of the parcel of land and any improvements, to identify the type and use of the property
  • the size of the parcel of land 
  • the age and size or measurement of any improvements,
  • the key factors, components and variables of the valuation model applied in preparing the assessment of property, and
  • any other information prescribed or otherwise described in the regulations.

Lacombe County has an on-line assessment search for all properties within the county

Disclosure of Evidence

As the complainant, you are obligated to provide the assessor with the information you will be presenting at the hearing. This is referred to as disclosure. Disclosure must include:

  • All relevant facts supporting the matters of complaint described on this complaint form.
  • All documentary evidence to be presented at the hearing.
  • A list of witnesses who will give evidence at the hearing.
  • A summary of testimonial evidence.
  • The legislative grounds and reason for the complaint.
  • Relevant case law and any other information that the complainant considers relevant.

For a complaint about an assessment to be heard by a LARB,

  • the Complainant must provide full disclosure 21 days prior to the scheduled hearing date. 
  • the respondent must provide full disclosure 7 days prior to the scheduled hearing date the
  • Complainant must provide rebuttal 3 days prior to the scheduled hearing date

For a complaint about an assessment to be heard by a CARB,

  • the Complainant must provide full disclosure 42 days prior to the hearing.
  • the respondent must provide full disclosure 14 days prior to the scheduled hearing date the 
  • Complainant must provide rebuttal 7days prior to the scheduled hearing date

Note: The timelines for disclosure must be followed. Any information that has not been disclosed will not be heard by the assessment review board. The disclosure timelines can be reduced if the disclosure information is provided at the time the complaint is filed, and only if agreed to by both parties.

Before filing a Complaint

Review your property information to make sure the description of your property is accurate. This is an important step. If you believe information about your property is not correct, arrange a meeting with one of the county assessors. Discuss any problems that might affect your property’s value.

Find out if these problems were taken into account when your assessment was prepared. The assessor can re-inspect your property and correct the information if necessary.

Compare your assessment with other assessments of similar properties in your area. Talk with a professional appraiser, assessor, or realtor who can estimate your property’s comparative value in the current market. Remember that the value shown on your assessment notice is based on the estimated value of your property on July 1st in the previous year.

Look at the recent sale prices of properties that are comparable to yours in terms of the following characteristics or features:

  • Location
  • Property size,  Landscaping, Services
  • House size, age, type, basement finish, fireplaces etc.
  • Garage/carport other Outbuildings
  • Major or minor repairs needed

On properties located in rural areas of the county, you may have to look further than your neighbours to find comparable properties. Remember that market conditions and selling prices may vary significantly in different locations and regions throughout the county.  If you own property in a rural setting, you will also have to consider the following when looking for properties that are comparable to yours:

  • Land area or dimensions, quality of farmland
  • Site improvements
  • Non-assessable improvements
          o Farm Residences can earn a partial exemption from their assessment
          o Farm buildings used for farming purposes are not assessable

 

Filing a Complaint

Please review the information on your Assessment and Tax notice carefully. You will receive a single notice for each property that you own. If you have any questions, please contact the assessment department at (403) 782-6601. If your concerns about your assessment are not satisfied after reviewing it with an Assessor, you may file a complaint against your assessment to the Assessment Review Board.

If a complaint is to be heard by an assessment review board, you or your agent must:

  • Complete and file the Government of Alberta “Assessment Review Board Complaint Form with the (Lacombe County) Assessment Review Board Clerk, This form is available at the county office or it can be downloaded from the County website or from the Municipal Affairs website at http://www.municipalaffairs.alberta.ca by clicking the above link.
    It is important to complete all fields on the complaint form that are relevant to your property.  This will help the assessment review board clerk schedule the appropriate amount of time for your hearing. It is also important as the assessment review board Must Not hear any matter regarding an issue that is not identified on the complaint form.  This means you cannot introduce new evidence or issues at the hearing that have not been previously disclosed.
  • Pay the appropriate complaint fee at the time the complaint is filed.
  • The completed form must be received by the (Lacombe County) clerk of the assessment review board, on or before the final date of complaint as shown on the front of the Assessment and Tax Notice (such date cannot be less than 60 days of the mailing date shown on the Assessment and Tax Notice),

The Assessment Review Board does not have the jurisdiction to hear a complaint if any one of these conditions are not met.

REMEMBER, complaints can only be filed against assessments, not against taxes or tax rates.

 

Appeal Fees

Residential and Farm Properties - $20 per parcel

Non-Residential, Linear and M&E Properties:

  • With less than $500,000 assessment - $100 per Parcel 
  • With $500,000 to $1,000,000 assessment - $300 per parcel 
  • With  over $1,000,000  assessment - $500 per parcel

 

Completing the Complaint Form

It is important to complete all fields on the complaint form that are relevant to your property. This will help the assessment review board clerk schedule the appropriate amount of time for your hearing and allow the board members to familiarize themselves with your case prior to the hearing.

Section 1 – Notice Type
In this section you will indicate what type of assessment or tax notice you received. The type of notice you received will be indicated on the notice, for most instances this will be “Annual Assessment”.

Section 2 – Property Information
This section identifies your property within the municipality. The 10 digit assessment roll number is unique to your property and is indicated on your Assessment and Tax notice. The address or legal land description further verifies the property under complaint. It is important to identify your property type so the clerk of the assessment review board can schedule your hearing with the proper board. For example, if you own a house in a Hamlet, you would select the “Residential property with 3 or less dwelling units”. If you own a residence that is located on a farm, you would select “Residential property with 3 or less dwelling units” and “Farm land”.

Section 3 – Complainant Information
This is where you identify who is filing the complaint on the property described in section 2. If, for example, you are going to have a family member or friend represent you at the hearing, you would identify them in this section. It is important for the municipality and the assessment review board to know who the complainant is because confidentiality could be an issue. If you have hired someone to file the complaint and represent you at the hearing, you must identify them in this section, and submit the Assessment Complaints Agent Authorization form along with the complaint form.

Section 4 – Complaint Information
This is where you identify the specific issues (matters) you are filing the complaint about. On the back of the complaint form, you will find a list numbered 1 to 10, of the matters that a complaint can be about. Check the corresponding box on the front of the complaint form. You can check more than one box if your complaint is about more than one matter.

Section 5 – Reason(s) for Complaint
In the previous section, you identified the matter(s) for complaint. This section is where you provide the details about the matter. For instance, you may be filing a complaint about matter number “3” (the assessment amount). Here is where you state what information on the assessment notice is incorrect (in this case it would be the assessment amount). You need to explain why the information is incorrect (for example, the square footage on your property record is wrong), what the correct information should be (for example, the actual square footage), and what the requested assessed value is.

Note: An assessment review board must not hear any matter regarding an issue that is not identified on the complaint form. This means that you cannot introduce new evidence or issues at the hearing that have not been disclosed.

You must indicate if you have met or spoken to the assessor prior to filing the complaint, and the date and outcome of that discussion. If you have not spoken to the assessor, you must explain why you did not. Please attach additional information to the complaint form if the space provided is insufficient.

Section 6 – Complaint Filing Fee
Lacombe County has set a filing fee payable by persons wishing to file a complaint, the filing fee must be submitted with the complaint form or the complaint will be invalid. If the assessment review board makes a decision in your favor, or you and the assessor have reached an agreement and your assessment has been corrected and your complaint is withdrawn prior to the hearing, the filing fee must be returned to you.

Section 7 – Complainant Signature
Be sure to sign, print your name, and date your complaint form, or have the family member or friend representing you sign, print their name, and date it.

Note: Your completed complaint form and any supporting attachments including the agent authorization form, and the prescribed filing fee must be submitted together prior to the deadline indicated on your Assessment and Tax notice. Complaint forms that are incomplete, filed late, or without the required filing fee are invalid.


Who do I send my complaint to?

All complaints must be returned to:

          Clerk of the Assessment Review Board
          Lacombe County
          RR3 Lacombe, AB  T4L 2N3

They can also be delivered in person at the County office during our regular office hours

Tip: To avoid penalties, taxes must be paid on or before the deadline specified on the tax notice even if a complaint is filed.


Now that I filed a Complaint, what happens next?

The clerk of the assessment review board will review the complaint to ensure required information, proper attachments, and the filing fee has been provided. If there are no problems, the clerk will determine what type of assessment review board will hear your complaint.

There are two types of assessment review boards that hear complaints depending on the type of property:

  • Local Assessment Review Board (LARB) – Members of this board are appointed by the municipality to hear assessment complaints about farmland and residential property with up to three dwelling units.
  • Composite Assessment Review Board (CARB) – Two members of this board are appointed by the municipality and one member is appointed by the Minister of Municipal Affairs. This board hears complaints about residential property with four or more dwelling units and non-residential property.

Once the clerk determines which board will hear your complaint, you will be notified of the hearing date and location.
If your hearing is scheduled with a LARB, you will receive notice at least 35 days prior to the hearing date.
If your hearing is scheduled to be heard by a CARB, you will receive notice at least 70 days prior to the hearing date.


Disclosure of Evidence

As the complainant, you are obligated to provide the assessor with the information you will be presenting at the hearing. This is referred to as disclosure.

Disclosure must include:

  • All relevant facts supporting the matters of complaint described on this complaint form.
  • All documentary evidence to be presented at the hearing.
  • A list of witnesses who will give evidence at the hearing.
  • A summary of testimonial evidence.
  • The legislative grounds and reason for the complaint.
  • Relevant case law and any other information that the complainant considers relevant.


Disclosure Timelines

Once the date of your hearing is set, you need to be aware of the following critical dates:

For a complaint about an assessment to be heard by a LARB,

  • You must provide full disclosure 21 days prior to the scheduled hearing date.
  • The county assessor must provide full disclosure 7 days prior to the scheduled hearing date
  • If you wish to provide rebuttal, you must do so 3 days prior to the scheduled hearing date

For a complaint about an assessment to be heard by a CARB,

  • You must provide full disclosure 42 days prior to the hearing.
  • The county assessor  must provide full disclosure 14 days prior to the scheduled hearing date
  • If you wish to provide rebuttal, you must do so 7 days prior to the scheduled hearing date


Note: The timelines for disclosure must be followed.
Any information that has not been disclosed will not be heard by the assessment review board.
The disclosure timelines can be reduced if the disclosure information is provided at the time the complaint is filed, and only if agreed to by both parties.


Preparing for your hearing?

When you are preparing for your hearing, it is important to remember that you are responsible for gathering information that proves your assessment is unfair or inaccurate. Your goal is to demonstrate that the assessment on your property is not a fair estimate of the market value of your property in comparison to other similar properties 

Think about how you want to present your comparison information to the board. You could describe your property and explain how each of your comparable properties is similar to or different from your property. Use the sale prices or assessments of your comparison properties to show how the assessment of your property is inaccurate or unfair.

Bring your comparison chart to the hearing along with other information you have gathered including:

  • The notes you took when you reviewed the assessment roll.
  • Copies of the registry searches.
  • Any other material you have gathered, such as photographs and maps.

This information will help you to answer questions about the accuracy of your comparisons. If you say there is a physical problem with your property that affects its value, bring to the hearing:

  • Written confirmation that the problem exists and a repair estimate from at least one reputable contractor.
  • Photographs of the problem area.
  • The written opinion of a realtor or appraiser saying how this might affect the value of your property in the current market. This opinion may or may not be accepted as evidence.

Tip: Make copies of all your material (including photographs) to take to the hearing, for yourself, the board members, and the assessor. Contact the assessment review board to confirm the number of copies you will need to provide.

Lacombe County council chambers is equipped with Audio visual equipment  which can be used to display most presentation formats, such as power point, connections to Lap tops, DVD’s etc.   If you require the use of this equipment for your presentation, please make arrangements with the Clerk a few days prior to the meeting to insure this equipment is ready to be used.


At the hearing

The following is a typical sequence of events at an assessment review board hearing:

  • The hearing is called to order and board members are introduced.
  • The clerk reads the assessment complaint.
  • You and the assessor introduce yourselves.
  • The presiding officer outlines the hearing process.
  • You and the assessor summarize your presentations.
  • You present your case.
  • The assessor and board members may ask you questions.
  • The assessor presents his or her case.
  • You and the board members may ask questions.
  • You may offer evidence regarding the assessor’s case.
  • You summarize your case and state your argument.
  • The assessor summarizes his or her case and states an argument.
  • The board considers the information presented.
  • The board may announce its decision at the hearing if the members believe they can make an immediate decision.
  • Whether or not an oral decision is provided, you will be provided with the board’s decision in writing within 30 days of the hearing.

An assessment review board may make any of the following decisions:

  • Dismiss the complaint if it was not made within the proper time.
  • Dismiss the complaint if you have not explained why you think information in the assessment or tax notice is incorrect or unfair.
  • Change the following: the assessment, the description of your property or business, the name and mailing address on the assessment notice, an assessment class, an assessment subclass, the type of property, the type of improvement, the school support, whether the property is assessable, whether the business or property is exempt from taxation.
  • Decide that no change is required.


Appeal to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta Process

You may appeal the decision of the assessment review board to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. If you believe that the assessment review board made an error in its decision, you may file an appeal with the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.

You have 30days from the date you receive the written decision of the assessment review board to file your application.

Note: You cannot appeal the decision of an assessment review board simply because you do not agree with the decision. An appeal can only be made if you believe that the board made an error on a question of law or jurisdiction.

A question of law is generally defined as a question to be decided, ultimately by a judge, concerning the application or interpretation of the law.

Jurisdiction is the general power or authority to decide an issue.

In order to have the Court of Queen’s Bench (the court) hear an appeal of an assessment review board decision, the appellant must first file an application for “Leave to Appeal” with the court.

In your application you will need to clearly demonstrate that an error on a question of law or jurisdiction has been made by the board. Your application should include the written decision of the board and any supporting evidence that relates to the error on a question of law or jurisdiction. You can make a written request for materials from the board for the purposes of the application. The assessment review board has 14 days in which to provide you with this information.

On hearing the application and representations of any other parties to the matter, the court will determine if the appeal is valid. The court may uphold the assessment review board decision, at which point there is no further avenue of appeal available. If leave to appeal is granted, then the appeal process will proceed. If the court finds that there was an error in law or jurisdiction, it may refer the matter back to the board with instructions to re-hear the complaint.


For further information you can refer to the information pamphlets available on the Municipal Affairs website