A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

Reducing Cook County Property Taxes, part 2

Yesterday I offered resources to help you appeal your Cook County property tax assessment, especially if your township is open for appeals. If you’re in Niles Township, that deadline is this Thursday, October 6th. Note that you must submit the application by that date, however you can indicate that you’ll send supporting evidence/documentation later. For Niles Township you have until October 17th to submit those documents.

When we received our proposed valuation letter from the Assessor, I was shocked to see that our square footage increased. The only possible reason for it was from our attic renovation, but it seemed high and I had no idea how they came up with that number. At the same time, our neighbor Joe, who did pretty much the same renovation around the same time as ours, called me to compare notes. We both were hit with a big number and have been researching how to determine the correct number and how to appeal it.

My first stop was the Community Outreach meeting, which as I said yesterday was not much help. I did ask about square footage and they told me it’s based on the perimeter of the building. Looking at the Assessor’s FAQ page, it shows this:


Okay, so if that’s the case, then I wondered why my square footage increased at all, because we didn’t enlarge the perimeter of the home. There’s absolutely no mention of how they incorporate/determine finished attic space and we are still classified as a “one story residence, any age” with a Residence Type of “1.5 to 1.9 Stories”, but we were bumped into a larger square footage classification.

After the meeting I approached our local Niles Township deputy assessor and asked why our square footage increased. He said, “Did you build an addition?” and I told him it was a finished attic, and he said that was why. I said I thought the square footage was wrong, and in fact I thought the square footage before the renovation was wrong too. He suggested that I come into their office, located at 5255 Main Street in Skokie (you can enter the parking lot off Lincoln Avenue) with any information I had.

I brought in our architect’s plans which showed that the original square footage of the first floor is approximately 350 SF less than the assessor says we had. I pointed out that his plans show the square footage of the existing garage and I thought maybe they erroneously added that figure to the total (garages and basements should not be included). It still didn’t add up to what they said though.

The assessor said they don’t see the architect plans AT ALL. They only get notification from the Village that a permit was issued and he said they would have sent a field agent out to physically measure the building. So that still doesn’t explain how they figured out the square footage of our attic living space, especially if the Village doesn’t send them the numbers that are on our architect’s drawing. WTH?? Are we supposed to rely on the field agent’s best guess on how much we added? And how accurate are the agent’s measurements in the first place?

No, I was not satisfied with that. Per the Cook County Board of Review Suggestions and Tips:

If you are appealing based upon an error made by the Assessor in determining the size of your lot or the number of square feet of living area in your property, you will need a supporting plat of survey, plan or equivalent substantiation prepared by an architect, surveyor, builder or engineer

Because I thought the architect’s SF calculation was probably not based on exterior perimeter, I wondered if our survey shows square footage. I pulled out a copy and they do show measurements of each and every section of the perimeter but not the total square footage (and with the angles of our bay windows and the front and back porch, it wasn’t simply Width x Length = SF). So I called them and he said yes, they would be able to calculate square footage based on those measurements. Luckily they still had our 9-year-old survey in their records, and he said they would have to come out and re-check and make sure that the building still matched their survey. From there, they would be able to provide a letter for me to submit with my appeal.

I’ll be picking up that letter on Monday, so I don’t know the exact results at this point. I’ll let you know how that turned out in the next post, along with how I’m arguing our finished attic space square footage.

Fingers and toes crossed!


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