January 22, 2001
AUTHORITY TO ENTER HOMES FOR PROPERTY TAX REVALUATION
By: John G. Rappa, Principal Analyst
You asked if homeowners must allow a private revaluation company into their homes when it revalues their property at the town's behest.
No law requires any property owner to allow a tax assessor or a revaluation company working for him onto their property. The assessor or the company will determine the property's value by other means if owner does not allow them to enter the property.
The owner can appeal the assessment to the town's board of assessment appeal even if he refuses to allow the assessor or company to enter the property. But the board may want to inspect the property in order to decide the appeal. The owner can still refuse, in which case he must accept the assessment or appeal it to Superior Court. If the owner chooses to appeal, he must prove that the town erred and present data supporting what he contends is the correct assessment.
The Superior Court overruled an appeal challenging a revaluation that was not based on a direct inspection. The revaluation company had to rely on indirect means after the owner refused to let it enter the property. It based the assessment on comparable sales statistics, notes from an outside visual inspection, and data contained in building permits issued for the property. The court noted that:
Much of the problem in this case came from the plaintiff's denial of access to the premises to MMC [the revaluation company] representatives for an inspection of the property prior to the revaluation date. Lacking access to the subject premises, MMC was left to consider the building permits taken out on the property and a visual inspection from the outside. This lack of cooperation was carried over to this action when Francis J. Buckley III, the town's appraiser, was denied daylight access to the subject to render his appraisal (Chipperini v. Groton, CV 93 0527760S (1999)).
Courts generally defer to towns in assessment appeals. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that “the law contemplates that a wide discretion is to be accorded to assessors, and unless their action is discriminatory or so unreasonable that property is substantially over valued and thus injustice and illegality result, their opinion and judgment should control in the determination of value for taxation purposes” (Connecticut Coke Co. v. New Haven, 169 Conn. 663 (1975), quoted in Midway Green Corporation v. Board of Tax Review, 8 Conn. App. 440 (1986)).