How to appeal property assessment

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 Enter the archive

This archive contains some useful information on how to appeal your property assessment, prepared by prominent Toronto lawyer and Queen's Counsel Bruce Haines. The file includes documents, forms, and general background and summary of the Assessment Review Board rules on how to proceed that may assist property owners in understanding the process. 

note: In Ontario, The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) is a corporation operated by 444 municipalities. It is not a Provincial Crown corporation although it should adhere to provincial law this is not always the case .   The Assessment Review Board (ARB) is a provincial quasi-judicial administrative body with the power to overrule MPAC.  The ARB claims to be an "independent" body.  However, the background of some of its adjudicators could raise concerns.   ARB adjudicators are contract workers with no job security beyond the terms of their contracts and may be influenced by outside work opportunities or job offers.  A list  and description of  ARB adjudicators in contained in the archive.

The Rules of the Assessment Review Board (ARB) should  allow taxpayers to move swiftly against MPAC with motions for discovery and full disclosure in order to properly prepare for appeal hearings in either of the direct or standard appeal streams.

It is important to recognize that the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) acts as a tax agent solely for the municipality and as such is not necessarily impartial, fair, or accurate in its task of raising revenue for the municipalities for which it works.  Municipalities charge taxpayers interest on overdue accounts at about 1.25% per month (approximately 15% annually).  BUT municipalities generally do not pay interest when the ARB orders a refund due to over-assessment.  Consequently, municipalities  obtain interest free loans from aggrieved taxpayers the longer that MPAC a can drag out the ARB appeal process.

note: As a result of public complaint, in 2006 the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario issued a Report critical of MPAC's policies and procedures and property assessments were frozen until January 2008. Some key recommendations from the Ontario Ombudsman have not, as yet, been implemented.

News reports

-Globe & Mail -Sept 2015-  Even the Ontario goverment is appealing its property assessments and is claiming that MPAC messed up  (read more)

-Globe & Mail-Sept. 2012.-Finance Minister Dwight Duncan reacted with anger to revelations that the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation closed up shop on Tuesday so that most of its employees could travel to Toronto to attend a lavish team-building retreat. “We’re going to have a long hard look at the future of MPAC,” Mr. Duncan told reporters. 

- Ottawa Citiizen-Dec 2010- This week's provincial auditor's report into the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation's management is 18 pages long but it can be summarized in three words: They are incompetent.

-Queen's Park Report - February 13, 2009- Because these new assessments were determined at the height of the real estate boom, homeowners in Simcoe-Grey that I talk to feel that it is unfair to be locked into an inaccurate assessment for four years.


The purpose of the "Self-Help" topics in this archive is to try to give you some understanding about challenging MPAC's valuation of your property for the municipal taxation year.

For residential property owners in Ontario, unless  a "Request for Reconsideration" (RfR) is sent to the Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) on or before March 31st ,  no complaint or formal appeal can be made to the Assessment Review Board (ARB) .  Consequently, March 31 is a key date to remember. [See new Rules proclaimed January 4, 2016. The new Rule requires a complaint within 90-days of receiving the 2016 Notice of Assessment] [see section 39(7) Assessment Act for tax years 2017.  Subsequent tax years -request for reconsideration each year prior to March 31st ]

I have prepared a Summary of the new Rules of the Assessment Review Board for Ontario taxpayers which should help you in initiating appeal proceedings with the Board.  MPAC knows that without an appeal you have no remedy to challenge them, and the process of initiating an appeal begins with you filing a Request for Reconsideration first with MPAC.

You don't need to hire a lawyer to attend with you before the Assessment Review Board. The attached summary should help demystify the appeal process. It will also help you in your dealings with MPAC during the "Request for Reconsideration." They should be prepared to provide you with the same information that they will have to provide should you not settle with them and proceed with the appeal.

So, what you want to do is ask MPAC for their data base on all actual sales in your neighborhood for that period. You can bet your bottom dollar that MPAC is accessing that data base. In fact MPAC probably has access to other data bases which have been paid for by public money and should therefore be freely available to you.  [note: as of 2016, MPAC's "new, improved website" makes it more difficult.  To get  comparables and PADS takes 6-8 weeks, or MPAC may refuse to provide PADs other than your own]   After figuring out one's own comparables, it will be another 6-8 weeks to get other PADS. One might suspect that MPAC hopes that people will either give up or miss deadlines and that MPAC's general strategy is one of making it to a hearing without providing the taxpayer with any useful information.  If so, this appears to  make a mockery of the ARB claiming that it places the burden of proof on MPAC.

Make sure that you keep records of everything you do, and make notes of all conversations with MPAC's people, and with the people at the Assessment Review Board. Don't trust to your memory because information which you obtain today if not recorded will surely flow like water through a seive and be lost down the drain. Why not start by opening a file and placing this introduction in it?

Feel free to send this  to like minded property owners who are fed up with being hosed by MPAC. You might consider complaining to your local Councillor and your MPP!


Bruce Haines Q.C.