Assessment season is upon us.
In Courtenay, a lack of appropriate involvement of City officials in communicating to citizens makes it necessary that extra steps be taken to ensure your property assessment is correct. The market value assessment system is flawed in a number of way and there is no incentive or inclination for the bureaucrats to change it.
Assessments can be off by up to 10 per cent and there is no legal requirement to make adjustments — the proposed shelter location on Cliffe was assessed at almost 40 per cent less than its actual selling price with no apparent reason for such a large discrepancy.
On that basis, every building owner in the downtown should appeal their assessments, particularly if there have been recent sales and they are not assessed at 40 per cent less.
The assessment authority has set a precedent with this case. The difference may be due to some facts that they are privy to, but in a system that puts the onus on the property owner to prove any skewed assessments, the Authority and City administration can and have concealed that which should be shared.
Withholding vital information occurs in Courtenay in other ways, too. An abdication of fundamental responsibility makes it necessary for property and residential owners in B.C. who have any development potential to get written confirmation from their municipality that there are no charges against their property.
The only exemption occurs where your community has a formal policy of informing you of charges and interest against your property. Otherwise, as in Courtenay, charges and interest can accumulate against your property for up to 15 years and you don’t even know about it.
They’re called latecomer charges and involve a charge being assigned to each nearby property that might be considered to benefit from work that an area developer might do.
A typical example would be a sewer line being put in to service a nearby subdivision and neighbouring properties with development potential now have a benefit because of the work and expense undertaken by a nearby project.
When a developer enters into a latecomers agreement, it is done under the authority of the Local Government Act and Municipal Charter by way of a bylaw (not in Courtenay) — once that bylaw is passed by the municipality (not in Courtenay) and the work is completed (not in Courtenay) and accessible (not in Courtenay), those interest-bearing charges will become applicable (not in Courtenay) — they cannot be for future work (not in Courtenay).
Why you need to know is that there is no legal requirement to inform you of these legal charges against your property. These charges that impact your market value at sale time but also annually in arriving at a fair assessment value, have to be paid by a purchaser if and when you sell your property, even if they have not been constructed legally and languished in a City bureaucrat’s drawer for years and years.
Additionally, these charges and interest entitle you to dollar-for-dollar consideration on your property assessment (not in Courtenay) because of the reduction in market value to comparable properties that don’t have charges against them. This may lead to a significant reduction in your property taxes BUT only if you know about it because they don’t necessarily and aren’t legally required to share that information with the Assessment Authority.
Courtenay takes it one step further and provides information to the Authority on charges and interest that haven’t legally come into force through an engineering company but does not and will not provide documentation to property owners pertaining to their own property.
I spoke to council two years ago and they ordered a staff report be undertaken by the same department responsible for the mess. They were also provided with templates on how latecomer charges are administered in other communities.
Council and the administration of the City of Courtenay has continued to do nothing to correct or remedy these practices which have been ongoing for several terms.
Time for some simple changes and literal common sense by those who purport to represent us. Until then, you need written confirmation that there are no charges and interest against your property; you may be misled but you will have legal recourse.