Property values have fallen sharply in Manatee County over the past few years and property owners have experienced reduced property assessments. The property appraiser is charged with setting the assessment. Pursuant to Chapter 193 of the Florida Statutes, the property appraiser is required to assess the value of all property no later than July of each year. Section 4 of Article VII of Florida’s constitution requires that a “just valuation” be determined of all property. In determining “just valuation” the property appraiser must take into consideration certain aspects of the property, including highest and best use, location, condition, and net proceeds of sale of the property.

This assessment is reflected on a “Truth-in-Millage” notice (the TRIM notice), which is mailed to property owners annually, usually in August. The TRIM notice lists dates of public budget hearings, where the millage is set and provides deadlines to file petitions to protest annual assessments.

In my experience, the property appraiser’s office has been extremely willing to meet with property owners (and legal counsel) to discuss proposed assessments. In some circumstances, the appraiser may not be aware of certain conditions. For instance, per Florida Statutes, the appraiser is required to personally inspect a property only once every five years, so there may be substantial changes in the condition of the improvements on the real property since it was last inspected.

Additionally, the appraiser may be unaware of certain local government constraints on the property that would impact “highest and best use” of the property. I recently represented a property owner in a legal battle with a city that rendered the client’s unimproved beachfront property as conservation, so no building permit could be pulled. The appraiser, unaware of this local restraint, assessed the property as having the highest best use equal to a luxury beach front property. By showing the appraiser proof of the local government’s action, we were able to allow the appraiser to properly reduce the assessment to reflect the city’s conservation determination.

If you believe your property is improperly assessed, it is critical to meet with the appraiser early in the assessment process (before the TRIM notice comes out) and provide the appraiser with written documentation (surveys, comprehensive plan or zoning changes, or market valuation studies) to establish and prove a lower assessment.

Blalock Walters has a great deal of experience in compiling information for review by the appraiser, and, when necessary, preparing petitions to protest assessments to the Valuation Board of Adjustment. Please contact us for assistance in this area.

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