As property taxes continue to rise, State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R–North Richland Hills) filed a bill seeking to help citizens deal with appraisal review boards not following proper procedure when citizens protest their appraisals.

Despite the passage of property tax reform in 2019, Texans’ property tax bills are still going up.

Part of the process of local governments setting property tax rates involves your local appraisal districts. Appraisal districts set the taxable value of your home. When local governments decide how much of your money they will spend, they take the appraised taxable value of your home and set a property tax rate that will rake in enough of your money so they can spend what they set in their budget.

On Tuesday, Hancock filed Senate Bill 449, which, if passed, would mean property owners can turn to lawsuits in certain disputes with appraisal districts.

“Texas taxpayers are already fighting an uphill battle in protest hearings and deserve an enforcement mechanism, some real teeth to the law, when they see a review board or appraisal district breaking protocol,” Hancock told Texas Scorecard.

James Quintero, policy director for Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Government for the People Campaign, explained that the bill “would authorize a property owner to bring suit to compel an appraisal district, chief appraiser, or appraisal review board to comply with a procedural requirement applicable to a property tax protest, [and] [a]ffords property owners with a limited avenue to correct appraisal district misbehavior in district court.”

“In successful cases, [it] provides for the defendant to pay court costs and attorney’s fees,” he added.

“If I’m right, it seems like an example would be that it would allow someone to […] sue to force the board to allow each side to take 30 minutes to present their case,” North Texas Realtor Chandler Crouch said in his analysis of the bill.

“I think this bill allows someone to sue to implement different procedures for a protest hearing. … [O]r, perhaps I could sue to allow the owner to provide additional clarifying statements to the board after their deliberations have started,” Crouch said. “It could present a problem if too many of these suits are filed.”

“I have a feeling it would be rarely used,” he added.

Hancock’s office provided Texas Scorecard examples of procedural violations, including appraisal review board members sleeping during a hearing, rescheduling hearings without the property owner’s request, denial of an owner’s or agent’s use of technology to support their appeal presentation, and the Texas Comptroller’s hearings procedures not being followed.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.