A Guide To How To Appeal Your Property Taxes

Fair to say, if you are living anywhere in the country, you are probably paying more property taxes than you should. The National Taxpayers Union, in fact, estimates that approximately 60% of all US properties are currently overassessed.

What makes this particularly shocking is that, since 2003, prices of median homes have declined dramatically. We would therefore expect tax assessments to be adjusted so as to reflect such declines in market values – though this has generally not been the case. Therefore property taxes for many homeowners unfairly continue to increase despite a continued decrease in local home values.

Due to a considerable shortfall in budgets, many municipalities are, in essence, heaping extra taxes on homeowners – many of whom are exercising their constitutional right for an appeal. Though appealing property tax assessments can be difficult and time consuming – and not always successful – being well-prepared for the fight can significantly increase your chances of success.

Assess your assessment

It is important to understand how your property is assessed. Ask a local realtor to help you compare your property with similar properties which sold recently to determine its market value. Multiply that value with the assessment ratio that has been established for your town. If the market value of your property is, say, $100,000 and its assessment ratio is 80%, this means the tax levied on that property is $80,000. Some rural areas and high class neighborhoods use another method of assessment by estimating the house replacement cost by adjusting factors such as the land value.

Property Record Card

Check for errors in your assessment next. To do so, you will need to obtain the worksheet of your property from your local assessor’s office. This work sheet is also known as property record card and contains information of your property such as number of rooms, dimensions, number of bathrooms, and so on. Check whether all the information about your property provided in the worksheet is correct or not. If you discover any incorrect or missing information submit this information immediately to the local assessor along with a blue print of your property. In this way you will could receive an immediate reduction and become exempt from a formal appeal.

Comparable Sales

Compare the assessed value of your property with other similar properties in that area. Look at the property’s worksheet to compare other factors like square footage, age, bedrooms, bathrooms, and so on. In this way you may be in a stronger position to appeal if your property’s assessed value is determined to be higher than at least five other properties. Make a list of comparable properties along with their other details like square footage, construction material grades, same neighborhood, and so on. This list should be produced when demanded by the assessor. The record of your neighborhood’s properties is available at the website of your local assessor.

In case you find only three assessed properties at lower and three at a higher value don’t lose hope because in this case you might be entitled to a reduction representing the difference between comparable properties and your property. Your house may be the only property with lousy grading which prevents you from having a garden or a less than desired view of your city’s water tower.

Fight back

Different localities have different rules and your assessment should be capable of explaining how your appeal works. For this you can provide evidence to the assessor including a list of comparable properties, repair estimates, blueprints, and photographs for review. In this way you can obtain a good settlement in an informal way and the assessor may continue completing his rolls and get a fair reduction for you. On the other hand if some settlement is not agreed upon, continue paying your taxes so as to avoid any future penalties on your property. Don’t worry because if the county is satisfied with your appeal, you will get a reduction or check on all future bills thereafter.

Before submitting your appeal form and other related documents, ensure whether or not they comply with all the requirements stated by the county. Keep one copy of all the documents and information submitted by you for your files In a few months you will probably receive a reply and if you think that the reduction you’ve got is not fair, you can follow the next step. The next step is to submit your case in front of an independent local appealing body. This will be more advantageous because you can personally explain your case. You can use photographs, blueprints, etc to prove that your appeal is correct. Also submit a copy of all the assessed document highlighting important points to every board member.

If your case at local level fails, you can take it to state, and even the judicial, level. Bear in mind, however, that judicial hearing will court fees, lawyer’s fees, and other expenses that could negate any savings you might realize from winning an appeal.

Where to search for the right help

It is better to employ an expert assistance which will not only save time but provide proper guidance also. In this way your appeal will become stronger. One more option is to submit your address and case to an online service company. Such companies – for a moderate fee – will highlight comparable homes in your area along with their assessment information and their sale price. If they consider your case strong enough they will send you a report which you can file with your local appeals board. If the appeals board rejects your appeal your money is then refunded.

Should you decide instead on hiring a professional appraiser, confirm that the board to which you are appealing your case permits such a professional or not. Certified appraisers can be found through the Appraisal Institute or the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers. Most charge anywhere between $250 and $500. Hire a person who is not only experienced in the field but also is familiar with local neighborhoods in your area.

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Could the Great Chicago Fire Been Prevented?

  • Nearly 300 deaths
  • More than 2,000 acres
  • 17,500 buildings
  • 73 miles of road
  • 90,000 left homeless
  • $ 222,000 in damage
  • The destruction of between two and three million books from private library collections

What do these have numbers have in common? If you answered the Great Chicago Fire of October 1893, you would be correct. And while as devastatingly as fire is in Chicago history, it is not the only horrific fire-related Chicago history. In fact, just a few years later (December 1903) there were more than 600 deaths when the Iroquois Theater burned and later listed as the deadliest single-building fire in American history.

What is more interesting, is that while the exact cause of the Chicago fire has ever been determined, the Iroquois Theater fire could have been prevented had the proper measures been taken. History shows that a Chicago fire department captain, toured the facility and noted that "there were no extinguishers, sprinklers, alarms, telephones, or water connections; the only firefighting equipment available were six canisters of a dry chemical called" Kilfyre ", which was Normally used to douse residential chimney fires. "

He reported the problems to his superiors, but was told that nothing could be done, as the building had its own fire warden. In addition to the lack of firefighting equipment, the editor of the Fireproof Magazine , toured the facility and reported that there was an "absence of an seize, or stage draft shaft; the exposed reinforcement of the (proscenium) arch; the presence of wood Trim on everything and the obligation provision of exits. "

After each of these events, Chicago rebuilt. But what if there had been something in place to send out an early alarm? How many lives would have been saved had the Iroquois Theater taken the time to make the necessary changes? Yes, it was a century ago, and modern assumptions as we know today were not available, but that does not excuse the loss of life and property destruction.

So, with a proactive focus in mind, what are you doing to protect your home and family from fire, theft, burglary or mayhem of any sort? Whatever you choose to have utilize the services of one of the local Chicago home security systems or opt for a nationally recognized company, taking care of what matters to you is important. After all, as the early residents of Chicago learned, it's not much fun to clean up after a fire! Do not make the mistake of thinking you could be excuse form personal injury, property damage or a break in. Do your part to keep your family safe.

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BCIN? Difference Between Designer, Architect and Engineer According to the Ontario Building Code

As I meet with new clients and friends every day, I commonly hear the same questions “What is a BCIN?” “When is a BCIN required?” etc. Here is some clarification to the public on some important issues about choosing a company to provide you with plans. Please note that this information applies only in the Province of Ontario.

What is a BCIN?

A BCIN stands for ‘Building Code Identification Number’. This number is assigned by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing, to successful applicants who have completed the requirements outlined in Division C Section 3.2 of the Ontario Building Code. There are two distinct types of BCIN number, individuals & firms. Individuals are people who have completed the exams and have received a BCIN from the MAH; however, they do NOT carry any insurance. As a result this limits the types of projects that the person can do. Firm BCIN’s on the other hand MUST carry valid liability insurance, and depending on the amount of designs fees that a firm charges in a year will dictate the required amount of insurance coverage they must have. Insurance is expensive but it is there to protect you so avoid working with companies who do not have it. For most people, a home is your single largest asset; do you really want to get plans from someone without insurance?

How do I know if I am choosing a registered company?

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing maintains a database of all registered BCIN holders. The registry is available through a system called QUARTS. Once on the Public Registry, this system allows you to search by the individual’s name, the company’s name or the BCIN #. Once you have found a business or individual, it will bring you to a page with details on the company. It lists the mailing address of the business & contact details. At the bottom it should also show the Registration as ‘Registered Designer’ and the Status as ‘Current’. If it shows up as ‘lapsed or expired’ then this means that they either do not have valid insurance for that year, or that they are late in filing their paperwork.

Do I need an architect or engineer for my project?

Probably not! There have been massive changes to the system in the last few years, opening the doorway for a new title; designers. Architects & Engineers are NOT required for any project less than 600m² (6,458 sq.ft.) and less than 4 storeys. For most residential and small commercial projects, you do NOT need an architect or an engineer. However, and this is important, if the project involves severe structural modifications, an engineer may be requested by the municipality to review the plans. On this note, there is a BCIN exam which will supersede this requirement! If your design company is a registered company in the Category of ‘Building Structural’ then they can complete the plans.

When do I need a BCIN ‘stamp’ for my project?

Depending on the type of project you may or may not need a BCIN number on your drawings. You do not need a BCIN number if the project relates to the construction of a house that is owned by the person who produces the drawings or if it relates to a farm building less than 3 storeys. There are a few other instances, but these are probably the two most important. Often I hear homeowners ask for just the drawings to submit for permit (no stamp). This is allowed, but as the homeowner you must be knowledgeable of the drawings (after all, you are claiming that you have produced them). It is okay to admit to the municipality that you hired someone to draw them for you, but at the end of the day you will be responsible to ensure that the drawings meet code. If the city has approved your building permit based on the drawings and you proceed to build your project to the drawings only to later find out that there is a problem, you will be on the hook to make any necessary adjustments to pass inspection. Most companies will charge from $200 to $2000 for the use of their BCIN number on the drawings. This may seem expensive but it is the security blanket that will keep you safe and ensure that your drawings meet code! I also personally apply for the permits and handle all the paperwork on my client’s behalf when I charge this fee; which most people prefer as nobody likes to stand in line for half a day to submit paperwork to the City.

I hope that this will help to clarify any questions you may have had regarding the requirements of having someone produce building permits for your project. I look forward to working with you, and if you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to ask!

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Antigua Weather – Best and Worst Months to Go

Antigua has 365 beaches – one for every day of the year – and plenty of good weather to go with each one. But the island has its share of bad weather months, too.

Beside the beaches, Antigua and its companion island of Barbuda are known for good shopping, historical sites and plenty of hotels, resorts and restaurants.

The island has little variation in temperatures throughout the year, but strong peaks and valleys with rain.

Tourists will experience an average high monthly temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the World Weather Organization says. The average monthly low temperature is 75 degrees.

Antigua weather in June through October reaches average high temperatures of about 87 degrees Fahrenheit. They reach a low of 83 degrees in December, January and February.

Rainfall rates 3.6 inches per month. It reaches a high of 5.5 inches in September, with almost as much rain in October and November. These months have the most storm and hurricane activity of the Caribbean's annual hurricane season, which officially runs from July 1 to November 30. The islands also see higher rainfall in May, although not as much as the fall months.

Antigua weather in February sees rainfall reach a low of 1.5 inches, followed closely by March, January and April, respectively. February through April average about eight rain days per month, while August, October, November and December average 13 days a month.

The best time to visit Antigua is March and April, while the worst time to visit Antigua is September and October, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

A combination of warm temperatures and light rainy make February through April along with June the least risky months for a vacation there. Likewise, Antigua weather in August through November along with May have the highest risk of rain.

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Characteristics of Universal Life Insurance

As we mentioned in the previous article, universal life (UL) was introduced in 1981-82, in response to a historically high interest environment and a consumer awareness of the value of self-directed investments because traditional insurance could not compete with short-term interest rates.

Here are some characteristics as follow

1. Account Value

The account value of a universal life plan is the sum of the gross values of all the investment accounts within the policy, including income, after deductions for the current month expenses.

2. Cash Surrender Value

The cash surrender value of a universal life plan is the current account value, less outstanding loans and surrender charges. Surrender charges are usually based upon a multiple of the minimum required premium for the policy back-end charges are larger than front-end charges.

3. Premiums & Contributions

Premiums are those amounts needed to pay the cost of insurance charges and other expenses for the policy. Deposits are those excess amounts that are of a pure investment nature.

4. Death Benefit Options

The amount of death benefit payable under a universal life policy is based upon 1 of 4 different options

a)Level death benefit: Level coverage throughout the lifetime of the policy.

b) Level death benefit plus cumulative gross premiums: Death benefit increases by the amount of each gross deposit to the policy.

c) Level death benefit, indexed: The amount of death benefit increases, yearly, by a predetermined percentage.

d) Level death benefit plus account value: The total amount of death benefit is always equal to the initial face amount, plus the gross account value. This is the most popular chose by 90% of universal life insurance policies’ owners because

the gross account value is tax free.

5. Premium Flexibility

The premium deposits, plus accrued investment income, must be sufficient to pay for all expenses and deductions, so as to keep the policy in force, tax exempt life insurance contract, flexible premium.

Universal life is not for every consumer

It’s flexibility tends to be reflected in much higher administration costs than are found in traditional whole life plans and the variable nature of the plan may make it unsuitable for those clients wanting guarantees

I hope this information will help. If you need more information, you can read the complete series of the above subject at my home page:

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Insurance Auto Auctions – Get Great Deals on Salvaged Cars and Trucks

Insurance auto auctions are a great way to get a great deal on salvaged cars and trucks. In fact, the company Insurance Auto Auctions is one of the most commonly used specialists in this area with auto auction locations throughout the United States. The company has been around since the early 1990s providing a variety of auto auction services for car owners, car buyers, and car sellers. If you are looking for a good way to get a car at a cheaper rate, insurance salvage deals are a great option!

Salvage vehicle auctions involve several elements – including a facilitation between buyer and seller as arranged by the Insurance Auto Auctions company. Although IAA is one of the more well known companies in this part of the automotive industry, many other companies exist with the same auto salvage specialty.

Automotive salvage occurs when an insurer considers a vehicle to be a "total loss" in insurance terminology. Essentially, this means that the vehicle is of no use to the insurance provider and the insurance carrier. When this happens, the salvaged vehicle can be sold or parted out. Many major insurance companies work with Insurance Auto Auctions, Inc. And similar companies. You will not be surprised to learn that Farmer's Insurance, and even GEICO are just some of the names on the IAA list of regular clients.

Percentage salvage auction sales are more common these days as such companies work hard to get a piece of the action! When a salvaged car is sold at rock-bottom prices, the insurance agency provider is very interested in obtaining rights to at least a small percentage of the insurance auto auction. Since this practice has become more common in recent years, more and more insurance agents and their representatives are seeking percentage shares with companies like Insurance Auto Auctions.

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Insurance Claims – Get an Advance Payment!

Insurance claim advance payments are not widely known by people who file claims. Often, when an insured has a loss of significant size, such as a flood, tornado, wildfire, hurricane loss or a big water damage loss, an advance payment of a portion of the anticipated settlement is issued by the insurance company. This situation also happens regularly when a business has a loss and needs money up front.

It is a customary and widely accepted practice for the insurance company to issue an advance payment in this type of instance. Be aware that there’s nothing in the standard property insurance policy that deals with advances. It is usually just a courtesy that the insurance company extends to their policyholder.

However, they don’t usually offer to do it. You have to request the advance.

Here’s an example. Joe Smith’s house is hit by lightning, and a fire damages most of the house. Joe’s policy has Building limits of $100,000, Contents limits of $50,000, ALE limits of $20,000. The house can be repaired for $70,000, which is less than the policy limits. However, the adjuster expects that the Contents loss will exceed the policy limits of $50,000, and the ALE loss will be $15,000. The adjuster sends in his first report to the insurance company, and tells them to expect the loss to be approximately $135,000 on these three parts of coverage.

The insurance company could easily issue an initial advance payment of $25,000 to $35,000 for Contents and ALE, and $40,000 to $50,000 for the Dwelling loss.

So, what do you do if your Contents are damaged and you need the most basic things, like a change of clothes and shoes? What if you need to have a contractor secure the building and put tarps on the roof to keep further rain out of the building? Most people do not have tens of thousands of dollars just lying in their bank accounts that could be used to begin repairs, or begin replacing personal property. That’s when the insurance company issues an advance.

It’s best to make your request in writing. Even if it’s just a hand-written letter, it’s best if it’s in writing. Write or type your request, keep a copy for your records, and give the copy to your adjuster. It’s also a good idea to send a duplicate copy to the claims department of your insurance company. Send it by overnight courier or certified mail. NEVER rely on the adjuster to ask for an advance on your behalf. He might get delayed with other work and it could be days before he asks. DO IT YOURSELF.

Take control of your claim, my friend! Make an EARLY request in the claims process for your advance payment!

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Advantages of Bus Travel

Bus is the most popular transport nowadays. Many people choose bus as the best transport for them because of the many advantages they find in it. Others never get on a bus, thinking only of the disadvantages, which are truly a lot. Here I will tell you the reasons why it is better to choose travelling by bus rather than travelling with your car for example.

The good standpoints for travelling by bus

Many people choose bus transport because it is cheap. This is the main reason why when you get on a bus you will see mainly students and old people. The tickets for long destinations are much cheaper than the flight tickets. You can also by a card for every month and travel at reduced fare. This is also a good advantage to choose bus transport, because it saves you money that you can spend on your next vacation.

Another good advantage of bus transport when going on short travels is that bad weather won’t be a problem for the bus driver. If you are planning to go to the nearest village with your bicycle and it starts raining or snowing, you will get wet for sure. If you choose the bus, you can save yourself this uncomfortable situation and it also can save you money because it won’t get you sick. Also if you choose to take a flight and the weather surprises you and a storm comes out, you may be waiting for hours because of delayed flights.

However, this won’t happen if you choose bus travel. In modern buses, you will have an air conditioner, toilet, the bus-hostess will offer you drinks and snacks to make your trip more enjoyable, and there are also at least two TV sets in new travel buses. So you can enjoy your trip watching a movie and having a snack without worrying when will be the next stop for the toilet. Also if you are travelling on a bus for more hours or even days, you can always make new friends there. So, the new social contacts are the other advantage of the bus. And if you have to choose between a plane or bus, remember that you will see much more if you are travelling with a bus. The bus also stops at many places during the travel and in that time, you can have a coffee or a cigarette if you are a smoker. In the plane this could not be done.

Another good advantage of buses is that they reduce the traffic jams in the rush hour in big cities. Imagine that everyone uses cars. The traffic jams will be a lot bigger than they are now. In some countries like India, a bus can gather more than 150 passengers. Imagine that all these people were using their cars instead of bus transport the cities will be crowded.

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What Does Liability Mean on Your Car Insurance?

Liability insurance is very important and most state auto insurance laws require that an individual maintain at least liability insurance on their automobile. What it does is protect you against costs that are associated with the damage and injury of another in an automobile accident in which you may be deemed at fault.

There are two parts to the policy. There is property damage liability and bodily injury liability. It is pretty easy to guess that property damage liability is going to protect you against any cost and damage that is associated with damaging another person’s physical property and that bodily injury liability is going to protect you against the personal injury inflicted on someone else as a result of the accident.

Usually, there are some numbers that a person may see on their policy. These numbers usually look like this: 50/100/25. Now what this means is that the policy is split up into three different amounts each policy can be different depending on what the individual chose when they opened the policy. In this case, 50/100/25 means that the insurance will pay for the bodily injury of an individual in an amount up to $50,000, will pay for the bodily injury costs on everyone in a vehicle in an amount up to $100,000, and will pay property damage costs up to $25,000.

Every vehicle requires its own level of liability insurance depending on what state you are located in. It is important to know what your state’s auto insurance requirements are so that you have an idea of what you would have to pay in your insurance premium.

The cost

Liability insurance is cheaper than full coverage insurance that also includes damages from theft, natural disaster, and vandalism. Liability only covers costs associated with an accident so that you do not lose your hard earned assets in a lawsuit. There are have been cases in which a person has been sued for more that what they have in coverage, but the liability insurance does lessen the blow. However, a person can pay for different levels of liability insurance to ensure that they will not be “taken for everything they’ve got.” Not having enough insurance can still have a heavy impact on a person’s life when an accident occurs.

No one intends on hurting another and they usually do not purposely engage in an auto accident because there is so much trouble involved, including the possible loss of the vehicle. That is why it is important to carefully assess how much car insurance you think you will need. Liability insurance is rather affordable. Some states have a minimum requirement of 20/40/10, but you could carry something such as a 50/100/50 if you think you need it. The cost is still not going to be much.

Just remember…

Don’t forget that if you set your limits too low you could be setting yourself up for financial disaster even though you have insurance. This is to be considered carefully. It is easy to make the decision to save money by paying the lowest premium possible, but paying the lowest premium possible could later result in the loss of your assets. It is also important to remember that liability just covers bodily injury and property damage. If a tree falls on your home during a wind storm, it is then time to assess your options. However, liability insurance will protect you from those nasty lawsuits that may come your way as a result of an accident. That in itself makes it more than worth the money because you have the peace of mind that most or all your assets are protected.

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10 Ways to Get a Shower on the Road

Hello travelers, people living out of a vehicle and other awesome folks, here are 10 Ways to Get a good Shower On The Road.

1) At a campground Campground showers vary from one place to the next. Some are excellent, some use solar power so you are out of luck if it’s after dark, and others are not heated at all. Water pressure is also a variable. Some have consistent water pressure while others will only get a weak stream when someone hops in the shower next to you or runs the sink. Campground showers can vary from deluxe with your own private changing room to just a primitive curtain or in rare instances, nothing at all. Some are well kept and impeccably clean and others you get to share with a few spiders and other mystery guests.

2) A community pool is another option. You may have to pay a few bucks to use the pool, but the showers are generally free. And hey, why not go swimming while you’re at it? They usually only accept cash and hours are limited.

3) Get a 5 gallon solar shower These are pretty cheap, usually less than $20 for a simple one, and can be quite useful when you’re roughing it. If you leave it in the sun for a few hours you’ll have a hot shower. If it’s not hot enough, a cup of near boiling water should do the trick. Just don’t burn yourself! If privacy is still a concern, for around $70 you can get a portable privacy shelter, such as the Texsport Deluxe Camp Shower/Shelter Combo. It works great for car camping.

4) The Solo 465 Stainless Steel Sprayer can be used as a medium pressure camp shower. Several people have commented they place it on a stove top burner and heat it up, then pressurize it and then it’s shower time. My friend tried this by pouring hot water into a 2 gallon plastic sprayer tank that he had and it made a great shower. It uses about 40 ounces per minute so that is a 6 minute shower using only two gallons. Another suggestion is to shower with Dawn Direct Foam soap instead of bar soap, then when it’s empty, you can refill it with your own scented soap and distilled water. The foaming soap lather won’t be affected by hard water. And it works for dishes too.

5) Get a day pass to a local fitness club. They usually run just $5 to $10, have really nice showers, and there is no excuse not to get a great workout while you’re at it!

6) Stop at a road house or large gas station such as Flying J, TA or Pilot, and other road trip stops with amenities for travelers and truckers alike. These tend to be some of the nicest showers you can get on the road as you get your own private bathroom with plenty of hot water and water pressure. Plus you get your own sink and toilet. Towels and soap are usually provided though you’re welcome to bring your own supplies. The cost is usually between $5 and $10 USD. If you’re traveling with your significant other, they’re usually willing to let you pay the one fee for a shared room. If you’re a little hard up for cash and feeling brave, you can also try asking a trucker if he or she has an extra shower coupon. Truckers often get free shower coupons when they buy gas and may have an extra to give away (or sell for a buck or two).

7) Visit a friend, relative or make a new acquaintance and ask to use their shower…sure, you might get a funny look, but what are friends for?

8) Try the “It Makes Sense Shower head.” You still need a water supply, but this device will help you save water. You can take a hot shower using very little water which is helpful when you’re on the road, so long as you don’t mind the chill in between the water spray. It has a chain to pull to adjust the flow of the water from a full spray to a trickle while you lather. It’s similar to a navy shower, and great for conserving water.

9) Zodi Hot Tap Single Burner Travel Shower runs off propane and 4 D batteries, so you can get a hot shower any time of day at the push of a button. It holds 4 gallons of water which is good for a 10 minute shower. Costs about $130

10) Hotels with swimming pools will sometimes let you use their pool for a small fee, and usually have public showers.

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