–From Denverite.com, May 2023
From 2021 to 2023, single family properties have increased by a median change of 33%.
If you own a house in Denver and haven’t opened that letter from the assessor about your property’s value, let us warn you now: you’re in for a shock.
Letters from the assessor have gone out with updated property values and homeowners are probably seeing some big numbers. Denver saw a 33% median increase in home values from July 2020 to June 2022, which Denver Assessor Keith Erffmeyer said was the highest he could recall in his nearly three decades working in the office. Surrounding Front Range counties saw even bigger jumps in residential values, from 40% in Larimer County to 47% in Douglas County.
The rise in assessments reflects growing home prices, bolstered by pandemic trends of high earners moving to Colorado from out of state to work remotely. Plus, in 2020, voters repealed a state constitution amendment that would have automatically reduced reassessed values, in order to better fund local services and help businesses paying sky high property taxes.
For clarity, the valuation notice you’re seeing is not a tax bill; that will likely arrive around January (so keep this article handy until then). The notices reflect the higher property values county assessors will use to calculate your tax bill.
But don’t freak out just yet: the state legislature is considering a bill allowing local governments to temporarily lower property taxes, to respond to that perfect storm of higher home prices combined with the effects of the repealed state amendment. We’ll update if that happens.
Regardless of what that final assessed property tax values are or what the state does for homeowners, there are ways to appeal and apply for assistance. Here’s what you need to know.
Think your assessment is wrong? Here’s how to appeal.
Property owners have until June 8 to file an appeal, which people can do online, by mail or in person (residents can call 303-864-7710 to schedule an appointment).
“We urge people to tell us some useful information, whether it’s ‘You don’t know this about my property,’ or ‘Here’s some sales in my neighborhood that maybe you didn’t consider,’ or ‘We haven’t been able to keep up with some maintenance and the house has fallen into a state of disrepair,’ things like that,” Erffmeyer told Denverite last week.
Erffmeyer said successful appeals typically include new information about the character of the home or recent nearby sales. For example, a permit for a home might have included permission for a finished basement that was never ultimately built, but the assessor’s office would not know that. Erffmeyer gave an example from decades ago, in which someone cut out a piece of carpet and mailed it to his office (the appeal was successful). Erffmeyer said he does not encourage destroying carpets and that pictures of what you want the assessor’s office to see will do.
If property owners have refinanced before June 30, 2022, Erffmeyer said people can use information from the refinancing as a form of third-party assessment as part of their appeal.
Once owners file an appeal, they have until June 30 to explain why they think the value is incorrect. The state must respond by Aug. 15. Property owners also need a copy of the assessment decision — the letter arriving in the mail in the next few days. Then the Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA) will schedule a videoconference hearing.
There are also some fees. Property owners appealing pay $101.25 per piece of property if represented by an agent or lawyer. If owners do not have representation, the first two appeals are free, followed by a fee of $33.75 per piece of property. Accelerated appeals on commercial property with renters are $200.
Not being able to afford to pay your tax bill is not a valid reason to appeal, but there are local and state resources to help people with their property taxes.
Colorado residents can apply to defer property tax payments through the Property Tax Deferral Program. Deferrals can range from $100 to $10,000 and take the form of a lien against the property, which gathers interest until the owner sells. This means property owners can use the money gained from higher values after they sell to cover the cost of increased taxes gathered beforehand. Applicants must meet one of these requirements:
- People 65 years of age or older
- People called into military service on Jan. 1 of the year filing for deferral
- People of any age can apply if their property taxes increased by 4% more than the average paid over the previous two years (which likely includes the majority of people, given how much values have grown this assessment period).
Anyone applying must own and live in the property (unless living elsewhere due to “ill health”) and cannot earn income off the property. Previous property taxes must be paid in full. The window to apply is from Jan. 1 to April 1, which means taxpayers can apply next year (and have to reapply each year to continue deferring). Find more information about property tax deferral here.
Colorado seniors, disabled veterans and surviving spouses can apply for property tax exemptions.
The application window for the senior property tax exemption ranges from Jan. 2 to July 15. People who have previously gotten approved do not need to reapply, but they must report changes in ownership or occupancy. Applicants must meet one of these requirements:
- People 65 years of age or older, who have owned and lived in their home as a primary residence for at least 10 consecutive years. Occupancy exemptions include if the person is now living in a nursing home, hospital or assisted living facility, or if the person’s prior residence was condemned by eminent domain or destroyed in a natural disaster;
- Surviving spouses of seniors who would have otherwise qualified;
- People who have received ownership of a property from a senior who would have otherwise qualified.
The program is statewide, but residents apply locally. Here’s more information for people in Denver.
The application for property tax exemptions for disabled veterans and Gold Star spouses ranges from Jan. 1 to July 1. A property must be the owner’s primary residence since Jan. 1 of the year applying. Applicants must meet one of these requirements:
- Disabled veterans with an honorable discharge, a service-connected disability, and who are not compensated at a 100% unemployability rate;
- Spouses of service members who died in the line of duty or from service-related injuries or diseases.
Denver residents can also apply for the Denver Property Tax Relief Program, which gives out partial refunds of property taxes.
Applications are currently open for 2022 taxes and will open next spring for 2023 taxes. Applicants must meet one of these requirements:
- Homeowners who turned 65 years or older during the application year;
- Homeowners who were disabled for all of the application year;
- Homeowners who lived with a dependent minor child for all of the application year.
After meeting that criteria, homeowners must also have an income at or less than 60% Area Median Income (AMI) during the application year. For 2022 refunds, that AMI looks like $49,260 for one person or $70,320 for a family of four. Applicants must have owned and lived in the property for all of the application year and paid their property taxes.
Renters are also eligible if they turned 65 years or older or were disabled during the application year and have a single income at or less than 25% AMI ($20,525 for a single person in 2022). Two renters together can apply with a combined income of 30% AMI ($28,150 in 2022).
CPR News reporters Andrew Kenney and Ben Markus contributed reporting to this article.