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Bulletin

How to Counter Municipal Tax Increases

Fasken
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Municipal Law Bulletin

Important Dates and Information

• The new 2014-2015-2016 property assessment rolls deposited in most of Quebec's large cities came into effect on January 1, 2014.

• The values appearing on these rolls are supposed to represent the properties' market value as of July 1, 2012.

• The deadline to submit an application for review of the 2014-2015-2016 roll with the OMRE (municipal body responsible for assessment) is April 30, 2014.

• Without an application for review, the value appearing on the roll cannot be subsequently contested even if there are significant tax increases in 2015 and 2016.

• In addition, your property's taxable value used to calculate your municipal taxes could continue to increase in 2015 and 2016 compared to 2014 because of averaging.

• No recourse before the Québec Administrative Tribunal is possible if there was no initial application for review.

New Assessment Roll

A new 2014-2015-2016 property assessment roll was deposited in the majority of Quebec's large cities, including the City of Montreal. The value indicated on this roll should be the market value as of July 1, 2012 on which the immovable's municipal tax for the next three years is based. As the deadline to contest expires on April 30, 2014, it is imperative to pay special attention to this value as soon as possible.

Assessment Notice

All owners of units of assessment, the value of which indicated on the roll is equal to or greater than $1,000,000, should have received an assessment notice within 60 days following the roll's deposit. Owners of other units of assessment should have received their assessment notice before March 1, 2014. If the value indicated on the roll is greater than your property's market value as of July 1, 2012, the steps to follow are:

• an application for administrative review with the OMRE, and

• a recourse before the Québec Administrative Tribunal, Immovable Property Section.

The Application for Administrative Review

The application for review may be submitted to the OMRE upon the roll's deposit date and until the later of the following deadlines:

1. April 30th following the roll's effective date if the assessment notice was mailed before March 1st; and

2. 60 days following the mailing of the assessment notice if it was sent after February 28th, which follows the roll's effective date.

The application for review must be presented on a prescribed form. The application must not only set out the conclusions sought but also the reasons in support of such conclusions. The fee payable when an application for review is made is determined by an OMRE by-law and must be attached to the form, failing which the application is deemed to have not been presented.

The application for review may be presented either in person or by registered mail at the location determined by the OMRE. Where the application for review is sent by registered mail, the mailing date of the application for review is deemed to be its filing date. Therefore, the applicant must keep proof of the mailing. The prescribed deadlines and formalities are of the essence and must be met, otherwise, the OMRE may consider the application for review to be non-compliant.

It is recommended, depending on the circumstances, that the assessment notice, the tax bill or the notice of modification or change be attached to the form.

The applicant will receive an acknowledgement of receipt of the duly completed application for review attached to the form and must keep it as proof of the application's receipt. It is also important to verify the deadline, then entered on the form, by which the municipal assessor must have sent his or her response to the application for review.

In the event of an application for review further to the deposit of a new roll, the deadline for the assessor's response varies from one municipality to the other. It may be:

• September 1st following the roll's effective date, if the OMRE has not postponed this deadline prescribed by the Act;

• November 1st following the roll's effective date, if the OMRE opted to postpone its assessor's response deadline to this date;

• any other later date determined by the OMRE, that may be up to April 1st of the second taxation year during which the roll is in effect if the municipality agrees thereto.

The wait time between the deadline to present applications for review and the deadline to respond to all applications is therefore 4, 6 or, at most, 10 months depending on the municipalities.

Even in this last eventuality, the municipal assessor's time limit is very short: he or she must verify the merits of all contestations regarding the property assessment roll, on a non-discriminatory basis, whether they pertain to small residential properties or large industrial complexes.

Owners of units of assessment having received an assessment notice within 60 days of the deposit of the roll have every interest in presenting their application for review as quickly as possible before the municipal assessor has received all contestations. Moreover, the presentation of a form is just a first step in the process. The municipal assessor must be convinced of the merits of the contestation. Before dealing with this expert assessor, an applicant would generally be well advised to immediately seek the services of an expert in such matters to try to reach an agreement and avoid lengthy proceedings.

The assessor's response to the application for review may include a proposal to modify the roll. In this case, the applicant has 30 days from the mailing of the response to reach a written agreement with the assessor.

The assessor may also reply that no modification is going to be proposed. He or she may also not respond before the deadline.

If there is no agreement with the assessor or no reply from him or her, the applicant may institute a recourse before the Québec Administrative Tribunal.

Recourse Before the Québec Administrative Tribunal

The recourse is brought by filing a motion with the registry of the Québec Administrative Tribunal, together with the required fee.

The time limit to bring the recourse is 60 days from the mailing date of the assessor's response or, otherwise, 30 days from the deadline by which he or she should have responded. Here again, the formalities and time limits be complied with, failing which the recourse may be dismissed.

Our attorneys who specialize in property assessment matters will be pleased to help you prepare your application for review if your property's municipal assessment is too high and to then represent you before the Québec Administrative Tribunal if the matter is not resolved at the review phase. Our attorneys have extensive property assessment experience and have represented numerous clients before the Québec Administrative Tribunal.

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