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Property Description Errors: Questions and Answers

With the large number of properties that are assessed each year, mistakes can happen. It’s important to examine the documents that come with your property assessment and check for any information that looks out of place. If you find something that’s inaccurate, it’s worth further investigation.

What are some commonly made property description errors?

Assessments of a property’s value depend on many factors. These include:

  • The square footage of the property
  • The size of its lot
  • Whether it is zoned as commercial or residential
  • The condition of the property
  • The value of any improvements that have been made
  • The prices of recent sales of neighboring properties

Overestimation of property size and value are common errors. Property description errors can arise due to outdated information being used in the assessment calculations.

What’s the worst that can happen?

Errors don’t always have a substantial impact on the amount of a property tax bill. However, an assessment that overstates the size of a building’s lot or inaccurately describes recent home improvements can result in unfairly expensive taxes.

How do I find a property description error?

The answer depends on the type of property you own. Residential property assessment documents are sent by mail and contain property descriptions. Homeowners can review the descriptions for any potential errors.

The process for commercial, industrial, and large multi-unit residential property is more complex. Property descriptions are not included in the assessment notices for these types of properties. The descriptions can be found with a freedom of information request or with access to a subscription database.  

You can check your property’s deed for errors as well. It’s important for the legal description in the deed to match your property’s attributes. Mistakes are sometimes made in the description of the shape of the parcel of land your home is built on. The orientation and length of the property lines described in your deed can be confirmed with a survey.

How can I fix a property description error?

To correct minor mistakes on a deed, a surveyor or attorney may be able to sign an affidavit stating that the legal description has an error. This document, referred to as a Scrivener’s Affidavit, is then recorded and added to public property records.

When the property is transferred to a new owner, the new deed will be updated with accurate information from the affidavit. More complicated mistakes may require a corrective deed. This involves gathering signatures from all prior owners of the property since the first inaccurate deed was recorded.

 What is a Certificate of Error?

Even if an error has been affecting your tax bill in previous years and you only recently noticed it, there are steps you can take to correct it. Filing a Certificate of Error (or C of E) with your local assessment official is one avenue to fixing an error.

However, a Certificate of Error is a request, not a guaranteed remedy. Additionally, general value judgments on the property are difficult to fix by filing a Certificate of Error. 

A certificate must be approved by the:

  • Supervisor of assessments
  • Board of review
  • County clerk
  • Treasurer

The Certificate of Error process can help if the problem is:

  • A mathematical error
  • Incorrect description of the property
  • Duplicate assessment
  • Missing exemption, or
  • Due to improvements that have been damaged or destroyed.

When filing a Certificate of Error will not result in a lower tax bill, appealing your assessment may be the best option. Residential property owners should consider appealing when the filing period opens in their township. Commercial property owners can conduct a review audit of all their records that are held by the assessor. An attorney can assist with either process.

Property taxes unappealing? We can help!

Appealing your property taxes is one way to ensure that the amount you pay is fair whether you live in the north/northwest suburbs, south/southwest suburbs, or in the City of Chicago.

At present, Illinois is second only to New Jersey with the highest effective property tax rates in the United States. A 2020 study found that some Chicago area homeowners pay twice the national average in property taxes for a similarly valued home. Moreover, property tax hikes are slated for 2021.

Appeal.Tax can prepare your property tax appeal and handle it from start to finish. We understand local appeal procedures to help homeowners avoid being overburdened with property taxes.

Appeal.Tax has no fee unless a reduction is obtained. And we only charge a small portion of the overall tax savings secured. 

Since 2015, we’ve saved Illinois property owners over $100 million in reduced property taxes.

Contact Appeal.Tax today to discuss your Association, residential, or commercial property tax appeal. Tax Attorney Timothy Jacobs can be reached at 847-777-7270 or