Homeowners want a freeze on property values due to the Covid-19 crisis

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With nearly 1.2 million residential homes in Harris County, there's an important deadline quickly approaching. Recently, homeowners received letters in the mail, stating property values increased. This translates into higher property taxes at the end of the year.

However, due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, along with rising unemployment numbers and falling real estate prices, many are asking for something to be done now to help affected homeowners.

Homeowner Cathie Hyde has some concerns about the recent letter she received from the Harris County Appraisal District, stating that her taxable property value increased by 10%.

Hyde said, "To be hit with these increased appraisals at the end of March when we already knew the situation was happening, it just doesn't seem fair." She went on to add "It seems wrong to not take into account the current trends, which are going to make the taxpayer pay more taxes this year, when they actually need the most money in their pockets right now."

According to HCAD, letters went out to homeowners in March, documenting home values based on appraisals as of January 1st of this year.

"At that time, the market was going very strong. It was a good economy," said Jack Barnett with HCAD.

But with the recent economic impacts, HCAD says their hands are tied when it comes to lowering home values.

According to Fort Bend County Judge, KP George, there is not much his county can do right now as well.

"The only people who have authority to do something about it is our governor, our comptroller and our state legislature," George said.

But he recently called on the state, asking for some relief for its residents.

"Our commissioners got approved, a resolution requesting to move forward and do something about it" Judge KP George said

Similar requests to the state, asking to roll back or freeze properties to 2019 values have come from other counties and appraisal districts in Texas, as well as state Representative Dan Flynn who represents House District 2 up near Dallas.

Representative Flynn told ABC13 "Since I sent a letter to Governor Abbott last month asking for consideration in freezing property taxes for at least this year, I have worked diligently with his office to find a good workable solution. I believe the governor shares the same concerns in protecting all Texans at this economically unstable time and I appreciate his willingness to continue to work with us to find a solution."

So until something is done on the state level, homeowners have to fight this on their own right now. In Harris County, the protest deadline is May 15.

Barnett did offer advice for property owners on how to prepare electronically.

"Use I-file to file your protest and then you can opt into I-settle and an appraiser will take a look at the evidence that you would submit" Barnett explained.

There are a few things you should consider submitting as evidence.

What are the big ticket items in or around your home that are in need of addressing? Do you need a new roof? Is your concrete slab cracked? Are there major repairs needed? Take pictures, and most importantly get estimates. Uploading those images along with the dollar amount to make those repairs will help appraisers in readjusting your property's value.

"One of the easiest ones to get is a residence homestead exemption" Barnett added.

He says that could allow for a substantial savings on tax liabilities, and puts a 10% appraisal cap on the property. And lastly, research neighboring properties that are similar to yours. Be sure to compare and contrast their values and submit those as evidence too.

As for Hyde, it's something she's planning on doing soon, but wishes there were better options for homeowners right now.

"It just seems like the system is out of sync and it really doesn't take into account what's going on in the world" Hyde said.

For those living in Harris County, the deadline for that homestead application is April 30.

Helpful links:

HCAD File a Protest - https://hcad.org/hcad-online-services/ifile-protest/

HCAD Exemptions - https://hcad.org/hcad-help/texas-first-time-property-owner/exemptions/property-tax-exemptions-for-homeowners/

Ft. Bend Central Appraisal District - https://www.fbcad.org/protest/

Galveston Central Appraisal District - http://www.galvestoncad.org/

Montgomery Central Appraisal District - https://mcad-tx.org/

Brazoria County Appraisal District - https://www.brazoriacad.org/

Liberty Country Central Appraisal district - https://www.libertycad.com/protest-form/

Chambers County Appraisal District - http://www.chamberscad.org/
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