Assessing the Assessment

Authority BC Assessment
Details

Several years ago, Kirsty noticed a discrepancy on her new home’s property assessment. It seemed a non-existent basement had been mistakenly included. At 500 square feet, Kirsty’s phantom basement raised the total assessed value of her home by a fair amount.

Kirsty called the assessment authority about the error and sent the building plans for her house. A few years passed and Kristy looked at her property on the BC Assessment website. There, she saw, the problem was never fixed. The non-existent basement was still counted, resulting in a higher assessed value and higher property taxes.

This time, Kirsty contacted us and we agreed to look into the situation. She was one of several homeowners with unresolved assessment issues that we investigated.

The assessment authority readily admitted: mistakes do occasionally happen. With so many property assessments done each year, the authority must rely on property owners to review the property details on their assessments which are publicly available on the authority’s website, www.bcassessment.ca.

Owners receive property assessment notices inviting them to visit the website and to find out more about their property assessment. The website also offers an array of popular services such as recent trends and a free comparison chart to find the value of neighbouring homes. Some owners go online; however many, including many seniors, do not.

To improve the printed notices, we asked the authority to include more details on the assessment notices to better inform property owners of the importance of reviewing their property details on BC Assessment’s website to ensure their assessment is based on accurate information. BC Assessment agreed and shared with us the proposed changes for the coming year.

To help with communication, we asked the assessment authority to improve its handling of phone calls, particularly given that it regularly invites people to call and includes its phone number on the property assessment notices.

The assessment authority agreed. Now it will keep records of every phone call on the property owner’s file, and will aim to return all calls within 48 hours.

As a result of our investigations, the assessment authority’s communication changes promise to improve the assessment review process by allowing property owners to better see what has changed on their assessments, identify discrepancies, and correct errors promptly.

Names in our case summaries have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. This case study can also be found in the 2016-2017 Annual Report.

Category Housing and Property
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2016
Location The Lower Mainland