Must I allow assessors to enter my home? And if so, what do they look for?
UPDATED: February 20, 2013
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In most states, home owners can refuse to let assessors enter their property. There are even cases where homeowners call the police, and the assessors are arrested for trespassing. Many of these cases result in the prosecutor not pursuing any charges against the trespassing assessor, who is usually (but not always) a government official.
Assessors need the permission of a homeowner to actually enter the property. This permission can be express or implied. For example, Wisconsin is considering a law to allow assessors the right to be free from trespassing charges as long as they act reasonably. Assessors should not stay longer than it takes to do their job, and they should work in the least bothersome way possible.
Why should I allow a tax assessor to enter my home?
It is often important for the assessor to see the inside and outside of the property (without hindrance by a dog) in order to make accurate assessments. If you forbid this, you force the assessor to eyeball the property from the outside, then make educated guesses about its interior features based on that casual scan. Furthermore, in a limited number of states, refusal to allow assessors onto your property may forfeit your appeal rights.
What will the assessor do while in the home?
Assessors count square footage, number of bedrooms, baths, type of heating or cooling systems, decks, pools, hot tubs, siding and any other factors that will push up value. You can ask for the assessor to arrange a reasonable time.
Many homeowners think that because they gave permission, they have to put up with poor behavior by an assessor. In fact, giving consent for an assessor to enter property does not mean you cannot change your mind, reasonably restrict their movements, or ask them to leave.
The key concept is to be reasonable. The assessor should act reasonably by keeping to the details of a property assessment. The homeowner should act reasonably by providing an assessor the chance to properly measure the home’s dimensions and taxable value.