Friday, January 06, 2006

Noise is Not Less Taxing in District

It’s frustrating when the law allows a person’s right to peace and quiet to be violated on and inside one’s property. It’s doubly frustrating when the District of Columbia tax man could care less.

My neighbor today received a letter from the D.C. Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals, which denied my neighbor any reduction of her 2006 property tax increase of 25%.

My neighbor explained, “A quick look on the D.C. Property Tax Assessment shows that our assessment increased by 25% compared with 9-14% for all of our neighbors, many with the same use code (24) and some with a different use code (11). We truly can’t see any justification why our increase is more than double of our neighbors’ increase.”

She cited a number of reasons, including this related to amplified noise:
“We are also plagued with disruptive fundamentalists who use loud amplifiers on our street to preach messages about hate every weekend. We cannot simply go home to avoid listening to this since it can be heard even with our doors and windows closed.”

In her appeal to the D.C. Board, she included a comparison of her property to similar properties located one or two blocks away. These other properties saw tax increases much lower than my neighbor’s 25%--and those properties are much less, if at all, impacted by the amplified noise.

As with death and taxes, noise, too, is a part of life. But burdensome amplified noise that hinders the enjoyment of one’s property should be a factor in lowering real property taxes.

My neighbor said she plans to file another appeal.

7 Comments:

Anonymous mark said...

Your neighbor took the wrong approach: relative amount of increase over the prior year is not a basis for appeal. The fact that last year's (or the past decade's) assessments were all over the map says nothing about the fairness of this year's assessments.

The valid bases for appeal are a) your house isn't actually worth its assessed value or b) your house is assessed materially higher than comparable properties. The latter is called an "equalization" challenge, and can apply even if your home is assessed at its actual value.

Example: You are assessed at $300K (which is what you paid last year for your house). Normally, that would be a valid assessment -- UNLESS you have neighbors in similar houses (a frequent circumstance on the Hill with our rowhouses) who were assessed for $200K.

A variation: you have the smallest house on the block, but are assessed at or above the amount of the assessments for bigger houses on larger nearby lots. You have a solid basis for appeal even if your house is really worth your assessment, because -- here again -- you are being treated unfairly & effectively taxed at a higher rate than your neighbors.

And yes, I've filed challenges more than once on equalization grounds & prevailed, including the time I took a 2d-level appeal to BRPAA.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Klav said...

This is good information, Mark. I believe my neighbor used other factors in addition to the noise, but it sounds like you're also saying that noise doesn't matter to the city assessors. Should she have ignored the noise issue altogether?

We all should be better informed about the assessment process.

7:28 PM  
Anonymous mark said...

Actually, I think a chronic nuisance noise condition ought to be a factor taken into consideration. (You can see, however, why BRPAA might require strong evidence that the condition is persistent and cannot be abated. Otherwise, people could game the system by having accomplices create temporary noise problems.) No, I was just pointing out the uselessness of arguing "my percentage increase over last year is too big compared to my neighbor's." That claim will never get you anywhere.

FYI, Stanton Park Neighborhood Association devoted one of its monthly meetings last year to a discussion of real property assessments and the appeal process. Tom Branham (who is or was the Chief Assessor in DC) spoke, as did two residents -- including yours truly -- who have filed successful appeals.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait Mark, didn't you just say in your first post that an appeal should be based on "equalization"? Now in your last post you say an arguement of "my percentage increase over last year is too big compared to my neighbor's" is useless? Not sure I understand what you're trying to say. FYI, the latter ["my percentage increase over last year is too big compared to my neighbor's"] works, I filed an appeal with this approach and my assessment was lowered.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous mark said...

Anonymous, go back and read what I wrote again. "My percentage increase was bigger than my neighbor's" is not an equalization challenge. An equalization challenge is based on the assessment *amount* as compared with the *amount* of the assessment for similar nearby properties.

Here's an easy example: for some reason, in past years your house was unreasonably assessed at the low value of $100K. (Don't laugh; the general ineptitude of OTR through the '80s and '90s produced a number of these, including one on my block.) Meanwhile, your neighbors have all been assessed at $250K for their identical rowhouses.

Suddenly, OTR realizes all your houses are worth $300K, and gives you all identical assessments in that amount. You just had a 200% increase; your neighbors, 20%. Do you have a valid equalization complaint? Absolutely not. Your house is fairly assessed in its own right (market value) and in comparison to neighbors' new assessment amounts.

Be careful not to confuse percentage of increase with the legitimate, related complaint that "my assessment is too high because isn't worth that much." You might get relief on appeal *if* you had a large percentage increase, but you shouldn't get one simply *because* you had a big jump.

8:18 PM  
Blogger iluvatar said...

Isn't it written somewhere in the Bible to 'love your neighbor?'

PEACE
“Peace is quiet and restful, Happy and joyful.” Morningside Elementary School, Perry, GA.

The words "Peace and Quiet" are often found in close proximity to one another, as if each were a side of a single coin. During the “Great War” (World War I), the phrase "Quiet sector" was used to describe an area of the battlefront where little action took place. Soldiers were rotated from the trenches to Quiet sectors where they would be relatively free of danger and could rest, for a while, in Quiet and Peace.

If we take time and listen for the voice of our ancestors, we might hear that Quiet and Peace, together, is the apotheosis of collective and individual human experience. Twenty-five centuries ago, the Taoist philosopher Lao-Tzu realized that “Peace and Quiet is the true path in the world…A thread easily lost in the tumult.” Irish Christian clergy of the 5th and 6th centuries wrote for us, in codices, sacred and ancient Celtic oral traditions; amongst these is the blessing: “Deep Peace of the Quiet earth to you.” In Genesis, the book of beginnings, the Quiet of the seventh day is the florescence of creation: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished…So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested …” Perhaps the gems of wisdom and tradition that whisper to us across the ages are the remnants of a pristine humanity.

The Sabbath ethic of rest, renewal and the righting of relationships recorded in the Hebrew bible foreshadow the Western traditions of Liberty and Justice. Isaiah, the prophet spoke of Quiet and Peace as both the cause and effect of justice: “the work of righteousness shall be Peace; and the effect of righteousness Quietness…my people shall dwell in a Peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in Quiet resting places.” The Quiet Peace of the ancient Sabbaths affirmed the intrinsic value of every created thing and therefore, no man or woman; no flora, no fauna; no earth, air, or water may be exploited to exhaustion. The Sabbath protected the people of Israel, who had just been liberated from slavery, from oppressing one another by allowing them to cease wresting a living from nature and from each other for a spell. It was the gift of Freedom to be human and time to consider what it means to be free. The message of the Sabbath is that if we want to live freely amongst others we must practice the fundamental ethos of social morality—do as you would be done by. If we wish to live in peace we must be mindful of one another, and create Quiet and Peace for our neighbors. If we desire Justice we must live Responsibly. As Quiet is to Peace so is Responsibility to Freedom. It has been said of the Athenians that “The Freedom they wanted most was Freedom from Responsibility, and then Athens ceased to be Free.” Quiet, Peace, Responsibility and Freedom are interdependent—without one the other three quickly fade.

Consider how the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon is smitten by the Quiet beauty of space and yearns for Quiet as the absence of war in his homeland: “The Quiet that envelopes space makes the beauty even more powerful. And I only hope that the Quiet can one day spread to my country.” A sixth grader in New Jersey knows what Peace sounds like: “Peace sounds as happy as a teacher in a Quiet classroom.” Black Elk, The Oglala Sioux holy man saw Peace as the destiny of our children when he spoke these words: “Great Spirit, my Grandfather, all over the earth the faces of living things are all alike...Look upon these faces of children without number and with children in their arms, that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of the Quiet.” Perhaps one day there will be Peace if we do not squelch the Quiet and Peace that fosters the unique melody in the hearts of all Children.


Mark Huber http://www.noiseoff.org

7:10 PM  
Blogger iluvatar said...

Isn't it written somewhere in the Bible to 'love your neighbor?'

PEACE
“Peace is quiet and restful, Happy and joyful.” Morningside Elementary School, Perry, GA.

The words "Peace and Quiet" are often found in close proximity to one another, as if each were a side of a single coin. During the “Great War” (World War I), the phrase "Quiet sector" was used to describe an area of the battlefront where little action took place. Soldiers were rotated from the trenches to Quiet sectors where they would be relatively free of danger and could rest, for a while, in Quiet and Peace.

If we take time and listen for the voice of our ancestors, we might hear that Quiet and Peace, together, is the apotheosis of collective and individual human experience. Twenty-five centuries ago, the Taoist philosopher Lao-Tzu realized that “Peace and Quiet is the true path in the world…A thread easily lost in the tumult.” Irish Christian clergy of the 5th and 6th centuries wrote for us, in codices, sacred and ancient Celtic oral traditions; amongst these is the blessing: “Deep Peace of the Quiet earth to you.” In Genesis, the book of beginnings, the Quiet of the seventh day is the florescence of creation: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished…So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested …” Perhaps the gems of wisdom and tradition that whisper to us across the ages are the remnants of a pristine humanity.

The Sabbath ethic of rest, renewal and the righting of relationships recorded in the Hebrew bible foreshadow the Western traditions of Liberty and Justice. Isaiah, the prophet spoke of Quiet and Peace as both the cause and effect of justice: “the work of righteousness shall be Peace; and the effect of righteousness Quietness…my people shall dwell in a Peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in Quiet resting places.” The Quiet Peace of the ancient Sabbaths affirmed the intrinsic value of every created thing and therefore, no man or woman; no flora, no fauna; no earth, air, or water may be exploited to exhaustion. The Sabbath protected the people of Israel, who had just been liberated from slavery, from oppressing one another by allowing them to cease wresting a living from nature and from each other for a spell. It was the gift of Freedom to be human and time to consider what it means to be free. The message of the Sabbath is that if we want to live freely amongst others we must practice the fundamental ethos of social morality—do as you would be done by. If we wish to live in peace we must be mindful of one another, and create Quiet and Peace for our neighbors. If we desire Justice we must live Responsibly. As Quiet is to Peace so is Responsibility to Freedom. It has been said of the Athenians that “The Freedom they wanted most was Freedom from Responsibility, and then Athens ceased to be Free.” Quiet, Peace, Responsibility and Freedom are interdependent—without one the other three quickly fade.

Consider how the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon is smitten by the Quiet beauty of space and yearns for Quiet as the absence of war in his homeland: “The Quiet that envelopes space makes the beauty even more powerful. And I only hope that the Quiet can one day spread to my country.” A sixth grader in New Jersey knows what Peace sounds like: “Peace sounds as happy as a teacher in a Quiet classroom.” Black Elk, The Oglala Sioux holy man saw Peace as the destiny of our children when he spoke these words: “Great Spirit, my Grandfather, all over the earth the faces of living things are all alike...Look upon these faces of children without number and with children in their arms, that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of the Quiet.” Perhaps one day there will be Peace if we do not squelch the Quiet and Peace that fosters the unique melody in the hearts of all Children.


Mark Huber http://www.noiseoff.org

7:10 PM  

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