One of the major rules of assessment appeals is that we respect the appeal filing deadlines. In general, Ontario’s Assessment Review Board (“ARB”) does not have jurisdiction to amend its own deadlines. Does this mean that if you miss the deadline that there is no hope? Your only option is to wait until next year?
Often, but not always. A recent case before the ARB highlighted one of the key ways that a late complaint can be created. Under the ARB’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, there are provisions for late complaints, but they are very limited. The decision cited Rule 26(b) - “Rule 26(b) of the Board’s Rules of Practice and Procedure (the “Rules”) provides that a late appeal can be accepted by the Board if “the appellant is a person entitled to receive a notice of assessment who did not receive notice, and filed the appeal with the Board within 30 days of becoming aware of the assessment that is the subject of the appeal.””
Note the three conditions - 1) the person seeking to appeal must be entitled to receive a notice of assessment, 2) they didn’t receive a notice, and 3) they must file within 30 days of becoming aware of the assessment. In practice, how does this apply?
The first point basically excludes tenants of a property. With certain very specific exceptions (airport properties, for example), tenants are not entitled to receive an assessment notice from MPAC. This is true even if the tenant occupies the entire property. Why might an owner not receive a notice? There can be many reasons, but it can certainly crop up with recently purchased properties. If the mailing address has not yet been updated, or if there is an error in the address, then the owner might not have received the notice.
The 30 day rule is so important. Generally owners have at least 90 days to file assessment appeals. However, as this is a special exception, the window is much more limited. Note that the time runs from when the appellant becomes aware of the assessment. Quite often this is by receipt of the tax bill, but it could be even later. If the address on MPAC’s records is incorrect, quite possibly the City will also send the tax bills to the wrong address. The ARB has ruled that “the issue is not receipt of notices but awareness of the assessments.” (emphasis added). It should also be noted that carelessness is not grounds for late appeals. If you received your notice, but didn’t pay much attention, that won’t cut it before the ARB.
What should this mean for the average taxpayer? File your appeal on time. Yes, there are circumstances where late appeals can be created. Not receiving a notice is one. Palpable error is another. But address errors in MPAC’s records are quite rare; genuine palpable errors even moreso. In all likelihood you will receive your Property Assessment Notice. But if you get your tax bill, and have a “What happened?!?!?!” reaction, it is worth investigating if you did indeed receive a notice.
Better yet - engage a property tax consultant before it becomes an issue.