Fight Property Taxes by Contesting RATES, Not Just Assessments!
To Cook County Property Taxpayers:
Each year, Illinois law permits Cook County property taxpayers to challenge taxes they paid during the previous year. Such cases are referred to as “rate” cases because they challenge the amounts levied by particular government entities (like Cook County and the township, city/village, and/or school districts listed on your property tax bills), which eventually get translated into a “rate,” i.e., the percentage applied to “equalized assessed value” (or “EAV”) to determine the amount of property taxes you pay each year. Please note that “rate” objections are separate and distinct from any challenge to the assessed value of your property.
Although large commercial properties routinely object to both assessed value and property tax rates, smaller commercial and residential owners frequently challenge only the assessed value. Later this week, Sperling & Slater will be filing a “rate” case on behalf of a group of Cook County property taxpayers. The case will be filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, County Division, will name Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas as a defendant, will be defended by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and will eventually be consolidated with dozens of similar “rate” cases. We anticipate filing similar “rate” complaints each year. If you wish to be included in this years’ “rate” case (and thereafter in subsequent “rate” cases), please reply to this email (or otherwise send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org) by no later than January 13, 2018 (the statutory deadline), with the following information:
- your name;
- address(es) for the Cook County property you own and wish to include in the rate litigation described herein;
- if possible, the property index numbers (or “PINs”) for your property (although we can look this up for you if the PIN(s) are not readily at your fingertips); and
- your phone number.
And even if you don’t respond until after January 13, 2018, we will include you in subsequent “rate” cases.
If you choose to participate in this “rate” case, you will not be responsible for reimbursement of our expenses or for any attorneys’ fees unless and until the objections we assert on your behalf are successful and provide you with some monetary benefit. In that case, we will deduct your pro rata portion of litigation expenses plus a one-third (1/3) contingent fee from any refund we secure on your behalf and will send you a check for the balance of the refund.
We cannot predict with certainty how much, if any, property taxes will be refunded to you as a result of a particular “rate” objection. What we can say is that refunds will be distributed pro rata (according to assessed value) to all property owners who join in one of the dozens of separate rate lawsuits that get filed each year, and that you have to join the litigation by January 13 of each year in order to eventually receive your share of any refund for property taxes you paid the previous year.
Refunds to smaller residential owners (i.e, those with an assessed value of $50,000 or less) may be no more than a few hundred dollars; refunds to much larger commercial and residential owners (i.e., those with an assessed value of $1,000,000 or more) would be proportionally higher and could run in the thousands of dollars per year. Critically, no amounts will be refunded to taxpayers who do not join the litigation, and Illinois law specifically prohibits class actions in this area. (Lawyers refer to this type of case as a “mass action” because each plaintiff has to be in at the beginning of the case, with no opportunity to join later.)
It is important that you understand that Sperling & Slater will NOT be challenging the assessed value of your property, have not advised you (and will not advise you) concerning the assessed value of your property, and urge you to retain separate counsel (if you haven’t already) to regularly challenge the assessed value of your property. As noted, such challenges to the assessed value are part of a separate and distinct process from “rate” objections, which challenge the levies, rates, and taxes you have paid (or will pay in the future).
Although we will update you concerning the progress of the rate litigation as regularly as circumstances warrant (and will attempt to do so at least annually), this type of litigation is complex and there is a serious backlog of cases. We understand, for example, that challenges concerning the property taxes paid in 2011 are just beginning to be actively litigated, and that not all of the objections concerning property taxes paid in 2006 have been fully resolved. Thus, the process can take years (sometimes ten years or more) to fully resolve, particularly if there are any trials and appeals. We will, of course, endeavor to move the “rate” cases along as expeditiously as possible, but wanted you to be aware of this possibly prolonged time frame.
If you agree to the terms of our retention (including the additional terms set forth below) by providing the information requested in 1.-4. above, we look forward to working on your behalf.
Adam P. Merrill
Sperling & Slater
55 West Monroe, Suite 3200
Chicago, IL 60603