As record property-tax hikes hit Texas, property owners who have grossly experienced unfairly overvalued assessments are rushing to take a stand, and appeal their tax bill. Amongst those recently affected was a downtown property owner in Houston, who sought the help Patel Gaines – a Texas law firm that is gaining a reputation amongst industry professionals across the state for its unique, result-oriented methods.
In 2014, HCAD’s appraisal review board valued the firm's client’s property at $69,000,000.00 –followed by $71,893,278.00 in 2015. Furthermore, that same property was valued at $79,218,070.00 in 2016 – a $10,218,070.00 (or 14.81%) increase in just two years, though there had been little to no changes to the economics of the property.
THE PROBLEM, THE NUMBERS
The media is quick to indicate that lawsuits lead to reductions in tax dollars; however, the fact of the matter is these “lost dollars” were never the counties’ to begin with. Regardless, Rahul B. Patel, managing partner of Patel Gaines, believes appraisal districts aren’t wholly at fault for overassessments, and states the lawsuits bringing correction to them don’t lead to lost dollars; they lead to fair assessments.
“We are in a mass appraisal system; this isn’t entirely the fault of our districts and appraisers. They overlook millions of properties every year. How can the 285 or so appraisers or analysts Harris County has accurately evaluate all of these properties in one year? Thus, the real issue we have is the true lack of accountability at the ARB level. The consultants we work with – they go to the hearings prepared, and present the information specific to the property; the ARB however, simply acts as a rubber stamper for value, and ignore the information before them. They simply lack the knowledge it takes to understand commercial and residential values.”
According to the “Review of 2014 Commercial Values for Harris County Appraisal District,” reported by Property Taxation and Assessment Consultants, “the ratio of parcels per appraiser/analyst in Harris County is 5,475.” Study that figure closer, and that works out to almost 2 parcels per hour for each appraiser or analyst working year round. Those numbers make it impossible to accurately assess all these properties 100% of the time; combine that with the inability of the ARBs to make fair and educated decisions to which they are selected to oversee – and the case moves to District Court. For Patel Gaines’ client, the situation was much the same, as their case moved to trial.
STRATEGY, LITIGATION, AND RATIONALITY: THE WINNING FORMULA
Patel Gaines the instantly knew this case was more than a classic appeal, provide, and settle matter and thus, suggested using their strategic litigation team and efforts that many traditional law firms and “one-stop shop” tax firms lack.
Patel Gaines litigated the property tax valuation with Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) with the same tenacity as any other commercial litigation case it handles outside the tax arena – with aggressive trial preparation and focus. The firm worked diligently and collaboratively with both property tax consultants and an expert commercial real estate appraiser to ensure their client received a fair and justified evaluation, and ultimately settled the matter for $51,500,000.00 for each 2015 and 2016.
How did they accomplish this, exactly?
This victory required substantial effort, aggressive litigation, collaboration with a property tax consultant, and a second opinion from an expert appraiser. In the end, Patel says “there are numerous variables that make up property appraisals, all of which need to be reviewed meticulously and – sometimes – from a different perspective. We make it a point to understand the specifics.”
The strategy employed by the team at Patel Gaines worked persistently to rectify the unequal situation regardless of the underlying issue. They agreed aggressive methods would allow them to move faster and more effectively. The firms worked fearlessly to ensure the matter was settled for a justified amount – and they succeeded.
Their aggressive approach proved to be successful, as the team at Patel Gaines achieved a tax correction for a total value reduction of $48,111,348.00, and helped the client avoid overpaying $1,299,006.40 in taxes. This is truly yet another notable and remarkable win for the team at Patel Gaines.
For questions or to arrange a free consultation with the law firm of Patel Gaines, please contact Rahul B. Patel, managing partner, at email@example.com or (210)460-7787. For more information about the firm, visit www.patelgaines.com.