Prince Rupert homeowners question spike in property assessments

Prince Rupert homeowners are questioning some pretty significant increases in their property assessments

  • Jan. 16, 2013 1:00 p.m.

~By Quinn Bender

Following BC Assessment’s assertion early January that properties would see a modest increase of three to seven per cent this year, some Prince Rupert residents were shocked to discover the actual numbers when they arrived in the mail.

“Ours went up $50,000!” wrote Janis Alexander-Gray on The  Northern View’s Facebook page.

“I thought it was a typo.”

“We could never sell our house for what its assessed at,” read another post.

As complaints filed in to social media sites, a number of Prince Rupert residents, who claim their properties underwent no improvements in the past year, simply wanted to know why their property’s assessment spiked upward of 25 per cent ­— a dollar figure ranging from $30,000 to $60,000. Prince Rupert Blvd resident France Powell saw her property jump 26 per cent.

“I understand why properties are going up in value and I’m happy to pay taxes for things like schools — that’s my duty and I’m happy to pay for community services. But when I’m presented with such a steep increase, I would like to know why.”

Powell says she refurbished her front steps last year, but has done no other home improvements. Comparable homes in Prince Rupert saw similar increases, but on Powell’s street the only home that sold last year did so for 16 per cent less of its assessed value.

“I have done nothing to the building that would justify this assessment,” said Powell.”

But without a formal review of the property BC Assessment said it is unable to offer a satisfactory explanation to homeowners like Powell.

“Our appraisers look at data,” said Geoff Radkie, a deputy auditor with BC Assessment.

“They analyze current sales in the area. Some of the newer homes in Prince Rupert were indicating sales of a 25 per cent increase. If there is a similar property in that area… it’s going to reflect that market value assessment.”

“That said, we will look at the type of home too. We’re not going to value a home built in 1940 the same as a brand new home. It’s about the characteristics — the age, the quality, the size, the condition, what kind of view or the location it’s in… [But] we do mass appraisals, so there are ones that slip through the cracks.”

Radkie added less than two per cent of Rupertites contested their assessments last year. But his department is “more than willing to review any property, and if there is a mistake that needs looking at we’ll definitely look at it and make sure it’s correct.”

Property owners who feel their assessed value doesn’t reflect the actual value can request an assessment review by calling 1-866-825-8322 or stop by the BC Assessment office at 4545 Lazelle Ave. in Terrace.

Last year, 6th Avenue West homeowner Tristan Higginson requested a review of his $123,000 assessment, resulting in a $24,000 reduction. He said the two key reasons for the reassessment was comparable listings on his block and then-unfinished home renovations.

“I showed her similar listings and she agreed with my rational,” said Higginson.

“There’s a big difference between a finished house and an unfinished one.”