Square footage Discrepancy

3 Replies

Hello,

There is a potential property I am looking into with differing tax assessor and appraisal/ MLS sqft. There was an addition to the property prior to the current owner and my guess would be that the addition was not permitted. In Washington state, how can this discrepancy be fixed? Also, how much does this usually cost? The last thing I would want would be to incur back taxes.

Thanks!

I doubt you would be liable for back taxes. I do not know the procedure in Washington but I suspect that the assessment is made annually. I have never heard of an assessor going back in time to raise an assessment. You may be at some risk of the assessor discovering the error and making a correction at some point in the future. That is most likely if you add another addition or make a repair/improvement that requires a permit and an inspection of the work. Even then, the inspector who comes out will not know of the discrepancy unless you give them a clue or there is some sort of document in the property records showing the property was not inspected after the previous addition.

Normally, each state has a statute of limitations on the correction of factual property characteristics for assessment purposes, like square footage. I'm not familiar with Washington state's property tax laws, but an anonymous call the the local assessment office could give you great insight without pinpointing the actual address. For example, in Virginia if the local assessor finds they missed assessing square footage they can correct the assessment for the current year (2015) and up to three prior years (2012-2014). Many times, they just correct the data for the next assessment year (2016) and call it a day, but you can't be sure until you ask. Also be sure that some of the square footage you are counting is not below grade (basement). Assessors typically do NOT include finished areas below grade in their square footage calculations.