The Role of Property Assessors

senior couple smiling with financial advisorLegal Guidance for Boston Residents in Real Estate Matters

Each city in Massachusetts has its own assessing department that is responsible for accurately assessing the value of all the real and personal property located within it for purposes of taxation. As of January 1 each year, assessors are required to assess all property at its full and fair market value. This includes the administration of tax billing for motor vehicle excise and boat excise taxes. Assessors must also administer property tax data records and keep records of parcel ownership based on the deeds at the registry. The role of property assessors can have an impact on how much property tax you pay in connection with an existing or new home purchase. The knowledgeable real estate attorneys at Pulgini & Norton can offer guidance to people in Boston and the surrounding area on property transactions.

The Role of Property Assessors in Massachusetts

The primary responsibility of property assessors is to value the real estate and personal property that is subject to taxation each year. A property assessor must take the oath set forth in Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 41, Section 29. The assessor must swear he or she will truly and impartially assess and apportion taxes assessed, using his or her best skills and judgment, and that he or she will not overvalue or undervalue any property.

Property assessors are either elected or appointed to three-year terms. The assessors do not raise or lower taxes. The actual amount charged is determined by the amount of tax levy that is required to cover the cost of local services. This levy is determined by the city's spending. The assessors determine each person's share of the levy, but they do not control an individual tax bill.

How do assessors value property? They determine the full and fair cash value by comparing the value of the property with the selling prices of similar properties, looking at what the property would cost to replace at this point in time, and current economic conditions. The role of the assessor is to determine and reflect any changes that are occurring in the marketplace each fiscal year.

The Assessing Department also makes decisions on abatement. Abatement is the reduction of property tax. Taxpayers are required to apply for abatement only in the current fiscal year, if they dispute the property valuation or property classification used by the assessors.

Before applying for abatement, you should consult someone in the Assessor's Office. In some cases, there is simply an incorrect value that needs to be corrected. Some reasons for abatement include overvaluation, disproportionate assessments that pertain to a class of property, statutory exemptions from taxation based on ownership and use, and improper classifications, such as when a property that is residential has been misclassified as commercial.

You are not required to allow assessors to inspect your property except in the event that you apply for abatement, but in some cases assessors can best perform their job of applying fair and equitable values if they are able to inspect the property. 

Protect Your Interests in a Property Transaction by Enlisting a Boston Attorney

The experienced lawyers at Pulgini & Norton can advise Boston residents on home purchases and sales, as well as on related matters such as taxes and abatement. We also provide thorough representation to people in Newton, Waltham, Quincy, and other cities in Massachusetts. Call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us via our online form for a free consultation.