Submitted by the Harris County Appraisal District

Each spring, homeowners throughout Harris County receive a property value notice from the Harris County Appraisal District in their mailbox.

If they don’t agree with the property value determined by the district, Texas law gives them the right to protest.

The first place a property owner should start the protest process is by looking at the valuation notice that came in the mail.  The notice shows two values on the front – the market value and the appraised value.

The market value is the price a willing buyer would pay a willing seller, and that is the value HCAD estimates the home was worth on January 1 based on sales in that area. The appraised value could be less than market value because of an appraisal cap, which limits year to year increases.  The taxable value, which is used to calculate the property tax, is the appraised value after exemptions, such as the homestead exemption, are subtracted. The taxable value can be found on the back of the notice under “Jurisdiction and Exemption Information.” (The homestead application is available on the web site at www.hcad.org.  There are also instructions on the web site and a short video on how to fill out this form.)

However, an important point to remember is that if the homeowner wants to file a protest, it is the market value the owner will be disagreeing with and protesting.

There are two programs called iFile and iSettle that can save the property owner time, help streamline the appeal process, and can be done from the comfort of home.   A protest can also be filed in person or by mail.

The valuation notice has the property account number displayed in the upper right hand corner along with the homeowner’s unique iFile number.  Both are needed to file a protest online, unless the property owner has created a prior log-in with HCAD.  The other important item the homeowner needs to be aware of is the protest deadline for the property, and this is in the last paragraph on the first page.

The online protest process starts by going to the web site at www.hcad.org where the homeowner enters their property account number.  Then they will see a “file a protest” button in the upper left portion of the page where their account information appears.

When they click that button, they will be directed to the new electronic communication and notice site.   New users will have to create an account – just follow the steps.  Existing users can log-in directly to their account through owners.hcad.org.

Once logged in, the owner just follows the directions to file the protest online.

To be considered for iSettle, the property owner must check this option on the protest screen and give an opinion of the property’s value.  The owner can also provide comments about the property.  Receipt of the protest will be immediately confirmed by return email.  The owner’s information will be reviewed along with other market information by an appraiser.  When the review is complete, HCAD will notify the owner by email of a decision.

If HCAD makes an offer, the property owner will have immediate online access to all of the information used in considering the protest, including the comparable sales. The owner can then use that information to decide whether to accept or reject HCAD’s decision.  If the owner accepts the iSettle offer, the protest will be concluded.

If an offer is not made, the protest will be scheduled for a meeting with an appraiser.  The appraiser has the authority to change the appraised value if the evidence supports it.  If the homeowner rejects the appraiser’s offer, the protest will be scheduled for an Appraisal Review Board hearing.

The Appraisal Review Board hearing is done by a specially trained 3-member panel.  The ARB is a separate, independent entity from the appraisal district.

Again, the property owner gets access to the evidence packet before the hearing.  Any evidence a property owner can bring in to show that the property would sell for less than its market value could help convince the ARB.  The ARB will listen to the appraiser, they will listen to the owner, they will look at the evidence, and they will make a decision.

The hearings are public so the property owner may also sit in on an ARB hearing to see how they are conducted.   The owner can go to the front counter and ask to sit in on several residential hearings.

Property owners are able to reschedule a hearing with the Appraisal Review Board using iReschedule.