New garage drives up assessment
South Surrey homeowners Peter and Ann Tilbury have filed an appeal with BC Assessment after a 96 per cent jump in the building value on their 26A Avenue property.
“There was a 35 per cent overall increase in taxable value,” noted Peter Tilbury of the current assessment, adding the figure went from $1.13 million, based on 2011 figures, to $1.528 million, based on 2012 figures.
“But what really made us go back and look twice was the increase in the value of buildings from $238,000 to $466,000,” he said.
“The numbers are ridiculous.”
The assessment notice said the increase was “due to new construction/development,” Tilbury said, adding nothing has been done to improve the property since 2008, when the couple added a 450-sq.-ft. garage to their 3,000-sq.-ft. home.
The extent of that addition hardly seems to account for almost doubling the building value, he said.
However, Chris Danchuk, deputy assessor for BC Assessment’s South Fraser regional office, said buildings on the property may have been undervalued as a result of incomplete information in the past, noting an appraiser will visit to “confirm the current inventory” of development and improvements to the property.
“We’re not sure we had the right inventory previously,” he said. “They do have a fairly large detached garage with a living area.”
Danchuk said an appraiser’s visit is typically the first step after an appeal has been filed and is intended to provide a true picture of the property, whether it supports BC Assessment’s view or the homeowner’s.
Tilbury said a call to an assessor confirmed only that BC Assessment’s files show a higher building value.
“The gentleman I spoke to couldn’t explain it – the record shows the home improved in quality over the last few years.”
The Tilburys’ appeal was filed last week, and an appraiser will be dispatched likely before the end of the month, Danchuk said.
Tilbury said he doesn’t expect the visit to record many changes, other than the garage.
“What (the assessor) gave me as what’s on record as the home’s square footage is exactly the same as it was when we bought it 21 years ago,” he said.
One increase the Tilburys aren’t disputing is a rise in the value of the land, which went from $892,000 to $1.062 million.
“You can’t really do anything about that,” Tilbury said.
This isn’t the first time he has appealed an assessment on the home, he acknowledged.
“I did appeal in 1993 or 1994, when I thought the house was being overvalued,” he said, noting that, as a three-bedroom home, it’s an anomaly in a neighbourhood where most houses have four or five bedrooms.
That appeal failed.
“There were 12 lawyers on the other side, with an office doing all their research for them, against a single individual doing all his own research in a time before the Internet,” he said. “I came out of it thinking ‘what a waste of time.’”
But this year’s increase seemed so extreme he felt compelled to appeal, he said.
Most perplexing, Tilbury said, is that BC Assessment appears to have turned forward the clock on their home, which was built in 1983.
“It’s a strange process,” he said. “It seems they are making it younger – they’ve applied 1990 as the year of building. How could you change history? To my mind, that’s what they’re doing.”
Tilbury said he was told by the assessor that re-dating the home from 1983 to 1990 – by itself – would have had a net result of increasing the assessed value of the buildings by 10 per cent.
“It seems arbitrary,” he said. “I’m wondering how many other people they’ve done that to.”
But Danchuk said that while there is no question that the house was built in 1983, it is not uncommon to revise the date of an older home for assessment purposes, given the probability it would have received some upgrading over time.
“A house built in 1983 would have had some changes during the course of its history,” he said. “Things like a new roof, new windows, or an updated kitchen, can combine to make a house (be classed as) newer than it is.”
Tilbury said the assessor he spoke to also suggested “quality improvements” to a home – such as remodelled kitchens and bathrooms – could be the reason for a jump in assessed value.
But Tilbury said the couple haven’t done that kind of work on their home, adding that BC Assessment shouldn’t be able to increase the value merely on an assumption they have.
“They’ve not been inside my home. They don’t know if I’ve improved the quality of the kitchen, or not,” he said.
Danchuk said it’s these kind of issues an on-site visit is designed to settle.
“If that kind of work hasn’t been done, the appraiser will report that,” he said.