Assessment Complaints Appeals Review Consultation Alberta Municipal Affairs Local

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					Assessment Complaints &
Appeals Review




        2008 Consultation
        Alberta Municipal Affairs
        Local Government Services
Introduction .......................................................................................................1

Formal Review - Disclosure (exchange of information) ..................................3

Formal Review – General Timelines................................................................8

Formal Review - Role (jurisdiction/authority) of Boards ..................................9

Training and Qualifications .............................................................................15

Putting it All Together......................................................................................17
 Introduction

            In January 2008, in response to stakeholder concerns, the Minister of Municipal Affairs
            approved a comprehensive review of the Assessment Complaints and Appeals system.

            Stakeholders raised numerous concerns regarding Alberta’s property assessment
            complaints and appeals system. Addressing these concerns may require changes to the
            Municipal Government Act and the Assessment Complaints and Appeals Regulation
            (AR 238/2000).


Review Objective

            The objective is to conduct a comprehensive review of Alberta’s property assessment
            complaints and appeals system and to make recommendations for proposed
            amendments to the Municipal Government Act (MGA) and the Assessment Complaints
            and Appeals Regulation (ACAR) that will result in a more understandable and efficient
            complaints and appeals system.

Initial Findings

            A great deal of information has been presented to the ministry over the past four years
            through consultations, resolutions, and other correspondence. Compiling and analyzing
            this information was the first step in the review.

            The findings from the 2005 and 2006 consultations on the Assessment Complaints and
            Appeals Regulation (ACAR) were reviewed, as well as from other issues brought to the
            attention of the Ministry over the last few years.

            In general terms, municipalities and provincial assessment providers have expressed
            concern over the significant resources that are used to defend assessments. Complaints
            are becoming more complex, and in many cases requiring legal representation.

            From the Ratepayer/Agent’s perspective, it appeared that insufficient access to timely
            information added significant pressures to the preparation of acceptable documentary
            evidence, or for verifying the accuracy of the assessment information.

            The overall consultation /correspondence review identified three broad themes:

            •      Disclosure

            •      General Timelines,

            •      Roles of the Boards (ARB and MGB)

            To ensure that stakeholder concerns were adequately addressed, diagnostic teams were
            assigned to flesh out viable options in each theme. Upon completion of the theme review,
            findings were combined into the options seen in this workbook.
How to use the workbook

The purpose of this document is to inspire ideas to improve the understanding and
efficiency of Alberta’s property assessment complaints and appeal system.

For the purposes of this workbook the word “Act” or acronym MGA refers to the Municipal
Government Act.

Options were developed based on feedback from past stakeholder consultations,
resolutions, and correspondence sent to the Ministry from the last four years.

Options are intended to be ranked in accordance to level of support. A comment section,
as well as a pros and cons section, is available for your input. In considering each option
you are encouraged to fill in as much detail as possible. Pros are positive results you
believe may happen as a result of the proposed option. Cons are the negative results.

You are requested to consider each of the options and express your degree of support for
each option. It is requested that any alternate option be written in the space provided.

Use this workbook to:

    •   become aware of issues and potential options

    •   identify alternate issues and potential solutions

    •   identify pros and cons of potential solutions

    •   identify your proposal to improve the system

    •   discuss your or your organization’s proposal to improve the assessment
        complaints and appeals system at upcoming consultation meetings hosted by
        Municipal Affairs

    •   submit your or your organization’s proposal to improve Alberta’s assessment
        complaints and appeals system to Municipal Affairs.


The workbook is intended to address all property types, (market
value based, regulated and linear); however, not all options will be
applicable to each category.




                                             2
    Formal Review - Disclosure (exchange of information)

                 Regarding disclosure, the review team has explored current definitions for clarity, potential
                 penalties or fines for non-compliance, due dates for exchange, dismissals, preliminary
                 issues, and other aspects of the information exchange process.

                 Set dates were considered for document delivery, fines for inadequate disclosure, removal
                 of assessment complaint filing fees, automatic dismissals, and the use of check lists that
                 outline minimum requirements of disclosure at various complaint levels, discovery
                 processes, and preliminary hearing matters.



    Access to Information

    ISSUE: Assessed persons report insufficient access to timely, relevant assessment information,
    which is needed to determine if there is a basis for complaint before the appeal deadline. This often
    leads to unnecessary complaints being filed. References have been made to Sections 299 and 300 of
    the MGA and the assessment complaint period.

    NOT ALL OPTIONS WILL BE APPLICABLE TO ALL PROPERTY TYPES (MARKET VALUE,
    REGULATED AND LINEAR)

    OPTIONS:
               Option             2= Support        Pros                Cons                Comments

                                  1= Neutral

                                  0= Do Not
                                   Support
1     Status Quo



2     Amend Section 299
      (assessment record) or
      Section 300 (summary)
      to clarify or define the
      information that is to be
      provided.


3     Amend Section 300
      (summary) to clarify or
      define the information to
      be provided and limit the
      time for assessed
      persons to access this
      information to the appeal
      period.




                                                               3
            Option               2= Support   Pros       Cons   Comments

                                 1= Neutral

                                 0= Do Not
                                  Support
4   Require the municipality
    to provide summaries of
    three comparable
    properties of the
    complainant’s choosing
    within 14 days during the
    complaint period.
5   Impose a penalty to a
    municipality for non-
    compliance related to the
    provision of comparable
    properties. The
    complainant would not
    be required to disclose
    any information and the
    municipality would not be
    permitted to present a
    case at the hearing.


6   Mandatory informal
    review or contact
    between parties before
    formal appeal is filed.
7   Extend 30 day minimum
    complaint period.


8   Include the Schedule A,
    B, C, and D factors of the
    Minister’s Guidelines on
    the Assessment Notice
    for Linear Property.


9   Provide the ERCB
    specifications and
    characteristics used to
    prepare the linear
    assessment for pipelines
    and wells on the
    Assessment Notice in
    electronic format.
    Additional Suggested
    Options




                                                     4
    Agency

    ISSUE: Stakeholders have expressed a concern as to when an agent begins or ceases to represent
    a property owner. Stakeholders have indicated that this affects the ability and willingness to provide
    information and could slow the process unnecessarily.

    NOT ALL OPTIONS WILL BE APPLICABLE TO ALL PROPERTY TYPES (MARKET VALUE,
    REGULATED AND LINEAR)

OPTIONS:
               Option            2= Support       Pros               Cons                 Comments

                                 1= Neutral

                                 0= Do Not
                                  Support
1      Status Quo


2      Amend legislation to
       include a definition of
       agency for assessment
       purposes, and when it
       becomes effective for
       appeal filing.


       Additional Suggested
       Options




                                                            5
    Disclosure, Exchange of Information

ISSUE: Clarification needs to be provided on what type of evidence should be disclosed, and by when
and which parties. It has been suggested that disclosed evidence should include any or all of the
following; valid sales, valid listings, appraisal reports, engineering report, or other industry expert
testimonial, etc.

NOT ALL OPTIONS WILL BE APPLICABLE TO ALL PROPERTY TYPES (MARKET VALUE,
REGULATED AND LINEAR)

OPTIONS:
               Option                2= Support   Pros            Cons                Comments

                                     1= Neutral

                                     0= Do Not
                                      Support
1     Status Quo
2     Amend legislation to
      include definitions of
      permissible evidence,
      and outline the minimum
      requirements.
3     Have disclosure rules for
      each assessment class.
4     Set specified dates for
      submission of required
      information.
5     Set a time prior to
      scheduling a hearing by
      which the complainant is
      to disclose information
      by.
6     Amend Section 460 and
      492 of the Act which
      would require a
      complainant to state
      what the assessment
      should be and the
      reasons why (define).
7     Provide the assessment
      clerk the ability to deny
      appeals based on non-
      compliance.
8     Provide a separate
      assessment class for
      multi-family, for clarity on
      disclosure requirements.
9     Amend Section 292 to
      clarify the date of record.

10    Amend legislation to
      prohibit Boards from
      hearing any evidence not
      disclosed within the
      specified timeframes.




                                                         6
             Option             2= Support   Pros       Cons   Comments

                                1= Neutral

                                0= Do Not
                                 Support
11   Require Preliminary
     Hearings at the request
     of a party after the
     opposing party's
     evidence and argument
     are filed to ensure that
     there is proper
     disclosure.


     Additional Suggested
     Options




                                                    7
    Formal Review – General Timelines

General Timelines were identified as one of the reoccurring themes identified in the review. As a result
the complaint period, hearing times, decision times, assessment deadlines and other scheduling
matters were examined.


    Time Limits


ISSUE: Comments have been made about the validity of the 30 day complaint period and the
requirements to have hearings decided within 150 days with respect to the ARB or MGB. We have also
heard about the effectiveness of the appeal process to the MGB, the timeliness of decisions and how it
coincides within the typical yearly assessment cycle.

NOT ALL OPTIONS WILL BE APPLICABLE TO ALL PROPERTY TYPES (MARKET VALUE,
REGULATED AND LINEAR)


OPTIONS:
             Option             2= Support     Pros                Cons                Comments

                                1= Neutral

                                0= Do Not
                                 Support
1    Amend the Act to have
     all hearings of the ARB
     and MGB held within the
     calendar year.
2    Include mailing time in
     the minimum complaint
     period of 30 days.
3    Amend the Act to have
     all ARB or MGB
     decisions rendered
     within 30 days of the
     hearing.
4    Set dates or time limits
     on disclosure
     (information exchange)
     prior to scheduling a
     hearing.
     Additional Suggested
     Options




                                                          8
    Formal Review - Role (jurisdiction/authority) of Boards

Under the Roles of the Boards, the review team explored the effectiveness of a two tiered system.
Other discussions concerned the use of appellant boards, mediation options, filtering systems, and
more strict rules on bypass options. Another area explored was board member certification, other
training programs, and regulations surrounding overall board procedures.


    Tolerance ranges


ISSUE: Stakeholders report that Board decisions often involve making minor changes to market value
assessments that are already considered to be at a reasonable estimate of market value. Comments
have suggested that the definition of market value for assessment needs addressing and that a
concept of a market value range should be considered.


NOT ALL OPTIONS WILL BE APPLICABLE TO ALL PROPERTY TYPES (MARKET VALUE,
REGULATED AND LINEAR)


OPTIONS:
               Option              2= Support   Pros           Cons               Comments

                                   1= Neutral

                                   0= Do Not
                                    Support
1     Status Quo:


2     Amend definition of
      market value for
      assessment purposes to
      include “range/tolerance
      for market value”.
3     Board procedures must
      reflect the need to
      recognize and weigh
      evidence regarding
      “range/tolerance for
      market value”.
4     Establish legislation that
      prohibits boards from
      making changes to
      assessments within the
      range (tolerance level).
5     Limit market value
      complaints to argue on a
      final assessed value, not
      a component of a
      formula.




                                                       9
            Option               2= Support   Pros        Cons   Comments

                                 1= Neutral

                                 0= Do Not
                                  Support
6   Restrict regulated
    property complaints to
    grounds related to the
    correct application of the
    calculation process in the
    Minister’s Guidelines.
    Additional Suggested
    Options




                                                     10
 Board composition and structure

ISSUE: Stakeholders have reported that the current two-level system is inefficient as it allows the local
and provincial board to hear the same case twice. Raising new evidence at a second hearing level or
through other indirect means is another issue.

NOT ALL OPTIONS WILL BE APPLICABLE TO ALL PROPERTY TYPES (MARKET VALUE,
REGULATED AND LINEAR)

OPTIONS:
             Option              2= Support      Pros               Cons                 Comments

                                 1= Neutral

                                 0= Do Not
                                  Support
1    Status Quo – Two Level
     which consists of the
     ARB and MGB.
2    Status Quo – but
     bypass ARB upon
     agreement of
     complainant and
     respondent with no input
     for the ARB.


3    Establish a one level
     Regional Hybrid Board
     which includes a
     provincially appointed
     chair and GOA certified
     local members.
4    Establish a one level
     Local Hybrid Board
     which includes a
     provincially appointed
     chair and GOA certified
     local members.
5    Establish a two level
     system where the MGB
     is an Appellant body
     only with evidence being
     confined to the record of
     the ARB.


6    Establish a one level
     board (MGB) that would
     have a one member
     panel for residential
     hearings and full panel
     for non-residential
     hearings.


7    Establish a Leave to
     Appeal requirement for
     MGB hearings that
     would allow the MGB to
     decide if there is merit
     for an appeal.



                                                          11
             Option              2= Support   Pros        Cons   Comments

                                 1= Neutral

                                 0= Do Not
                                  Support
8    Implement mandatory
     mediation prior to a
     hearing.
9    Establish a Filter Board
     which would decide if a
     hearing was to be at an
     ARB only or an MGB
     only.
10   Residential and
     farmland properties to
     be heard at the ARB
     and non-residential
     properties to be heard at
     the MGB
     Additional Suggested
     Options




                                                     12
    Merit

ISSUE: Stakeholders have commented that appeals are being heard where no merit exists and that
this is a significant drain on resources.

NOT ALL OPTIONS WILL BE APPLICABLE TO ALL PROPERTY TYPES (MARKET VALUE,
REGULATED AND LINEAR)

OPTIONS:
             Option              2= Support   Pros          Cons              Comments

                                 1= Neutral

                                 0= Do Not
                                  Support
1     Mandatory awarding
      of cost against
      appellant where it has
      been determined that
      the appeal has no
      merit.
2     Fees at each hearing
      level.
3     Loss of right to appeal
      in subsequent year if it
      has been determined
      that the appeal has no
      merit.
4     Mandatory costs
      against a party who
      withdraws on the eve
      of a hearing.


5     Mandatory costs
      against a party who
      does not bring opinion
      evidence through a
      properly qualified
      expert.


      Additional
      Suggested Options




                                                     13
    Fair and Equitable

ISSUE: Stakeholders have commented that tribunals at times ignore the fact that they must not alter an
assessment that is fair and equitable with other assessments of similar properties.

NOT ALL OPTIONS WILL BE APPLICABLE TO ALL PROPERTY TYPES (MARKET VALUE,
REGULATED AND LINEAR)

OPTIONS:
             Option            2= Support      Pros              Cons                Comments

                               1= Neutral

                               0= Do Not
                                Support
1     Status Quo


2     Define fair and
      equitable.
3     Audit board’s
      decisions and
      implement penalties
      for non compliance
      to regulations,
      Penalties may
      include possible
      dismissal, fines, etc.
4     Regulate board
      procedures.
5     Mandate board
      member training to
      ensure they
      understand
      assessment
      process.


6     Define how fairness
      and equity is
      achieved for
      regulated property.


7     Limit complaints to
      matters enumerated
      in the Act. Do not
      allow complaints
      based on policy.
      Additional
      Suggested Options




                                                        14
Training and Qualifications

ISSUE: Throughout the review process the issue of training became apparent. As a result, the
qualifications of those participating in tribunal processes were examined. It was apparent that having
trained, professional representation from all parties present would be of significant benefit to the
complaint and appeal process.

NOT ALL OPTIONS WILL BE APPLICABLE TO ALL PROPERTY TYPES (MARKET VALUE,
REGULATED AND LINEAR)

OPTIONS:
            Option              2= Support      Pros               Cons                Comments

                                1= Neutral

                                0= Do Not
                                 Support
1    Mandatory
     certification levels for
     board members.
2    Mandatory
     designation
     requirements for
     parties presenting
     evidence.
3    Varying levels of
     training for different
     property classes.
4    Board training on
     what qualifies as
     expert training.
5    Establish regulated
     board procedures.


6    Regulation of
     persons representing
     parities for a fee.
7    Board member
     training on hearing
     procedures and the
     principles of natural
     justice.
8    Board member
     training on what
     constitutes
     reasonable
     disclosure of the
     case to be met.
9    Board member
     training on the
     principles underlying
     the Rules of
     Evidence and how
     those principles can
     be used to obtain
     reliable evidence in a
     tribunal hearing.




                                                         15
           Option             2= Support   Pros         Cons   Comments

                              1= Neutral

                              0= Do Not
                               Support
10   Board member
     training on the
     correct manner in
     which a witness
     should enter their
     direct testimony and
     the scope of
     permissible cross
     examination.
11   Board member
     training on decision
     writing, determining
     issues and
     developing findings
     of fact.
12   Board member
     training on how to
     weigh competing
     evidence.
13   Board member
     training on the
     reasons why a board
     qualifies a witness to
     give opinion
     evidence, and the
     importance of doing
     so to obtain reliable
     testimony.


     Additional
     Suggested Options




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                                                   16
Putting it All Together

  Many of the proposed options discussed will impact the timelines and requirements for the appeal

  process. It is important to consider options collectively in order to arrive at an appropriate proposal

  for improving the system’s efficiency and effectiveness. It is also important to consider the

  relevance of a change in one theme in relation to the other themes. The themes are intertwined

  and are all key elements of the overall assessment complaints and appeals process. To effect any

  meaningful change in system efficiency and effectiveness, this relationship must always be

  considered.

  This consultation document will remain open until September 15, 2008. All results will be analyzed

  prior to October 31, 2008. Final proposed changes to the assessment complaints and appeals

  system will be presented to the Minister of Municipal Affairs for consideration.




                                                         17