The official-looking mailing was brought to my office by an elderly constituent, who was concerned about a possible scam. The bright red and white notice, entitled “2012 Property Tax Assessment Analysis,” indicated that “Fairfax County tax authorities may have made an error” in assessing her property. The notice also noted a “Property Tax Overpayment” of $2,200, and provided information about how to get a free analysis plus a “Custom Appeal Evidence Report.” Somewhere in the notice, a “one-time fee of less than $100″ also was mentioned.
Fortunately, my constituent was savvy enough to know that appealing an assessment in Fairfax County is free; residents can file an appeal easily with the county’s Department of Tax Administration if they think their property is over-assessed. In fact, you can apply on-line in a free and easy process. Assessed values of properties are easily accessible on-line as public information, along with the “comparables,” or recent sales in the neighborhood on which the valuations are based. The current assessed value on the notice was accurate, at $580,020, but the ValueAppeal Estimate was just $408,218, an “Assessed Value Discrepancy” of $171,802. A quick look at the comparables on the county Web site revealed that none sold for less than $600,000, and many were in the $700-$800,000 range.
ValueAppeal is the name of the Seattle-based company soliciting business. Curiously, two of the four satisfied customers quoted in the notice were identified as living in Las Vegas, Nevada, which has the highest foreclosure and default rate in the country. Not sure that is a glowing endorsement! While the ValueAppeal notice may not be illegal, it certainly smacks of a scam, especially against the elderly, and I was glad my constituent brought it to my attention for follow up. And now you know about it, too. One thing they did get right – their “one-time fee” of $99 is less than $100!
To review assessed value data for your Mason District neighborhood, log-on to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dta/. Information about your property, surrounding properties, and recent sales can be accessed by simply entering the street address when prompted. Remember, all that information is free. Appeals of current real estate assessments must be filed with the Board of Equalization by June 1.
More than 300 vehicles drove through the Household Hazardous Waste removal event at the Mason District Governmental Center last Saturday. That’s more than one vehicle per minute! Sponsored by the Fairfax County Solid Waste Management Program and my office, this free annual event makes disposal of household chemicals, oil paints, old fertilizer, CFL bulbs, and other potentially hazardous items quick and easy. Document shredding will be available at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale, on Saturday, May 19, from 8 a.m. until noon. Residents are limited to a maximum of five medium-sized boxes of paper per household. You should remove all paper from binders, and remove all paper clips, binder clips, and rubber bands. This service is intended for shredding documents of a personal or sensitive nature such as tax documents, medical, or financial records. Other forms of paper, including junk mail, newspapers and magazines, can be recycled through your normal recycling collection service. Shredding is a free service for Fairfax County residents.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org