In December 2008, the Premier of Ontario said that municipal property assessments issued last fall for the 2009-2012 tax years are "unrealistic" since resale values have significantly declined in recent months.
Will there be a flood of objections and appeals in respect of these assessments? Time will tell, but seeing as how each condominium unit is treated as separate property for municipal tax assessment purposes, a large volume of appeals may be likely. A 100-unit standard condominium could, for instance, give rise to 100 separate objections or appeals. With more than 5,000 condo corporations in the Greater Toronto Area alone, the number of appeals by condo unit owners alone could be astonishing.
In reality, obtaining expert representation to navigate the process and collecting the necessary market value data to use as evidence is not cheap. For that reason alone, most property owners do not appeal from their assessments.
Fortunately, condominium unit owners have the ability to band together through their condo corporation and bring a single appeal for all of their units. All that is required is for the condo corporation to pass a by-law under clause 56(1)(f) of the Condominium Act, 1998, authorizing it to object to assessments under the Assessment Act on behalf of its unit owners and to defray the related costs out of the common expenses.
Subsection 56(4) of the Condo Act provides that a condo corporation with a clause 56(1)(f) by-law also has the capacity and authority to bring appeals under section 40 of the Assessment Act on behalf of owners, and to be responsible for the costs of the appeal (but not for any other results).
The advantage of the owners acting collectively through their condo corporation is that expert counsel can be retained, high quality evidence can be gathered and the case can be brought as a single objection or appeal for the benefit of all of the owners in their corporation. This is a highly cost-effective and sensible way to proceed which maximizes the likelihood of success while minimizing the potential negative impact that can arise from ill-conceived or poorly-presented appeals brought by individual owners.
Not a team player? No problem. Owners who do not wish to participate in the appeal process may, under subsection 56(5) of the Condo Act, withdraw the appeal in respect of their unit by giving notice to the condo board and the Assessment Review Board prior to the hearing.
If your condo corporation’s by-laws do not already authorize the corporation to make objections and appeals on the owners’ behalf, the Board must start the process to pass the necessary by-law and then present it to the owners for approval. As with all by-laws, a favourable vote by a majority of the owners of all of the units is required for approval.
The deadline for requesting a reconsideration of 2008 assessments is March 31, 2009. Requesting reconsideration is the equivalent of making an objection and is a mandatory pre-requisite to making an appeal. Appeals must then be made within 90 days after MPAC mails its decision on the reconsideration request. Get moving!