The Three Levels to Appeal in Cook County
The state of Illinois provides three levels of appeal concerning a property’s valuation for real estate tax purposes. This article explores the first level of appeal to either the township assessor in non-Cook County townships or the county assessor for Cook County.
The assessors in non-Cook County townships are responsible for generating the initial assessments for all properties in their jurisdictions. They do this on a quadrennial (every four years) basis. After they establish their proposed assessments, most township assessors provide for an informal review with either the taxpayer or their representative prior to a final assessment being placed on the books. There is a short window to conduct this informal review, but the assessors typically are very amenable to this settlement process to avoid second-level appeals to the county board of review.
In Cook County, reassessments occur on a rolling triennial basis with either the City of Chicago, northern suburbs, or southern suburbs being assessed annually. Appeals to the Cook County Assessor’s Office (CCAO) have a much more formal nature to them. The CCAO has published an extensive list of rules for filing an appeal. Not being in full compliance with these rules will be justification by the CCAO to not reduce a property’s assessment. The current outlook in the CCAO is a presumption of correctness where they believe their assessments are accurate, regardless of the appeal evidence submitted to them. This has been a dramatic change for both taxpayers and their representatives since January 2019 when a new assessor was elected. Though this presents some new hurdles, there is still an opportunity for a successful appeal in Cook County, and the assessor level of appeal should always be pursued.
Of particular note in the appeal process is the topic of a property’s vacancy. Although vacancy is not a statutory basis for assessment relief in the state of Illinois, it has been treated significantly different by almost every county assessor, with each of them developing their own rules. In general, the dichotomy between Cook and non-Cook was historically clearly seen on the issue of vacancy relief. In non-Cook County jurisdictions, vacancy was normally not considered at all or granted some limited formulated relief. In Cook County, historically with the use of an affidavit, relief was granted at the assessor level, reflecting a property’s actual vacancy. However, this has changed in Cook County with the new assessor, and now no more than market vacancy is being considered.
The next article in this series will deal with appeals filed to the board of review level.