‘Every property may be different’

Municipal Assessment Agency explains upcoming property value increases

Bonnie Learning bonnie.learning@tc.tc
Published on September 22, 2015

With property assessments to be appearing in the mailboxes of residential and commercial property owners next month, many are left wondering how exactly values are determined.

Earlier this month, the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay released preliminary property value results, which were released to the Town by the Municipal Assessment Agency (MAA), that have indicated an increase for residents.

On average, residents and business owners in the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay can expect a 33.1% average increase in residential property and a 10% average increase commercial property.

Sean Martin, executive director of the Municipal Assessment Agency  — which sets the property values for every municipality across the province — stresses that’s just what it is — averages.

“Obviously, if it’s an average, some properties are above and some properties are below it by its very nature,” Martin told The Labradorian.

“Every property may very well be different. We don’t simply apply that average.”

Martin explained the MAA is guided by provincial legislation and under the Assessment Act, they are required to do an assessment every three years.

“The base of this assessment at this point is for 2014. The base for the previous assessment would have been 2011,” Martin noted.

“It also requires us to assess property at market value. So what we’re looking at is what people were selling and buying property for in the various communities across the province around January of 2014.

“Once we’ve determined what the market was, we then take that and apply that to all the other properties around the community.”

When looking at sales, Martin says they look at certain aspects.

“We’re looking, for example, for what type of property sold for what amounts? So for example, we may find that two-story homes are selling faster and at a higher price than one-story homes or vice-versa. Or different types of split entry homes may be selling for more or less. A newer home may see the value go up less than an older home; it depends on the neighbourhood in the community. So these are all factors that people take into an account when buying real estate.”

Martin explained the MAA maintains an inventory of all the properties within each community.

“We track the sales through a couple of sources, primarily through the registry of deeds, as documents are registered. But we’re also watching for unregistered sales, for when an owner’s name changes, for example. So when we see that, we ask, is that potentially a sale?”

Martin every property within a municipality that applies property tax is valued in its assessments every three years.

“We will have an insert in with the assessment notice, telling people why their value has changed since the last assessment,” noted Martin.

 “And we’ll encourage them to contact us if they have a concern or if they have a question we can answer for them. At this point, this is between us and the property owners. Later on, the municipalities will take these numbers and use them to determine what tax rate they’re going to set.”

Martin said should anyone have questions at anytime — including when they get their notice — to contact his office.

”They’ll review your file with you to determine, for example, is the information correct? Because if the information isn’t correct, we may decide to come out and re-visit the property and whatever changes we make, we’ll notify you of the result and you decide what you want to do.

“For example, if there are no changes (after a re-visit) or you get the changes and you’re not satisfied, you then do have an option to file a request for an appeal. And that information is provided on the assessment notice.”

He added anyone looking to appeal would have to forward a cheque for $25 with the appeal form, but that fee is refundable if the appeal is withdraw or if the property owner is successful in the appeal.

“Then you get a commissioner who’s been appointed to hear those appeals and then we’ll go through that process,” he explained.

Martin noted, however, that in the majority of cases, most residential property issues are resolved through a phone call through discussions with MAA staff.

“If we have something wrong, we’re happy to fix it. And, if there’s some information we don’t have, we’re happy to take that into account as well. Our job is to get the value correct. Whether it goes up or down, it’s not really material to us. For us, it’s is this correct value for your property.”

The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay have said during the budget process this fall, the town will be studying the mil rate and taking measures to mitigate the impact of property increases on residents.

Property owners can get in touch with the MAA by calling toll free 1-877-777-2807; email info@maa.ca; or visit www.maa.ca.