Important Information about MPAC shared at NRUL Meeting by Dawn Jefferies

Frank Burke, president of the North Renfrew United Landowners (NRUL), welcomed everyone to a meeting on Wednesday, February 7, 2018. He introduced Tracy McIntyre, Account Manager Municipal and Stakeholder Relations, and Kenneth Rennick, Manager of Valuations and Customer Relations from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) office in Pembroke.  They delivered a presentation explaining who they are and what they do.

MPAC is an independent, not-for-profit corporation funded by all Ontario municipalities. It is accountable to the Province, Municipalities and property taxpayers through its Board of Directors who are appointed by the Minister of Finance.

Its role is to assess and classify 5,000,000 properties in Ontario in compliance with the Assessment Act and regulations set by the province of Ontario. The assessments are based on the fair value of the property based on sales in the area. Properties are also assigned classifications such as residential, farm or industrial.

This system works well in large cities where there are subdivisions of “cookie cutter houses”. In rural areas, it can be hard to find comparable houses in the immediate area. Vacant lots in Stonecliffe are sometimes compared to lots in Golden Lake.

There are five major factors that account for 85% of the value of a property. These are: location, square footage of the living area, age of the property adjusted for any major renovations or additions, lot dimensions, and quality of construction.

McIntyre stated that there is a four-year assessment cycle. All properties were assessed on January 1, 2016 and an increase in value will be phased in for the 2017 to 2020 tax years. If there is a decrease in assessed value it is applied immediately.

Municipalities use the assessment data that MPAC provides to calculate Municipal tax rates to meet their revenue requirements.

If you disagree with the assessed value of your property, there is a website where you can verify your data. You can also access the data for 100 comparable properties in your area and save 20 of your favourites. If you still have questions about your assessment, you can file a Request for Reconsideration. MPAC will review their file and the information you supplied with your Request to try to reach an agreement on the assessed value of the property. If no agreement is reached, the next step is the Assessment Review Board (ARB). Rennick stated that the assessors work for us and are happy to have taxpayers call them or visit them at their office at 141 Lake Street to try to reach an agreement without resorting to the ARB.

A building permit issued for the construction of a garage will trigger a visit by an appraiser, who will try to make contact with the property owner using the following guidelines in their attempt to assess the new construction. The appraiser will respect Landowners signs and not enter a property. If there is a No Trespassing sign on a road serving several dwellings, the assessor will enter and try to contact the appropriate property owner. If there is no signage, the assessor will knock on the door and if there is no answer, will leave a “door knocker” message. If the property owner tells him/her to “get off the property” they will leave immediately. Appraisers do not climb fences or open gates. If all attempts at communication fail, the appraiser will estimate a value using information from the building permit and may assume that there is a concrete pad in the garage, it is insulated, and finished inside. This would result in a higher assessment value than if the garage was actually unfinished with a dirt floor.

A number of questions were asked about alternate energy sources and other factors influencing assessments.

Solar farms are not classified as farmland. A person can have solar panels on the roof of their house and it will not affect their assessment or classification.

Small size ground mounted solar panel installations with a generation capacity up to 10 kW will not see an increase in assessed value or classification.  Medium size (10 kW to 500kW) may see the property’s assessed value change. Large size ground installations with a generation capacity over 500kW will be reclassified to the industrial tax class and the assessed value may increase.

The University of Guelph did a study of 7,000 sales of farms and homes between 2002 and 2010 before, during, and after construction of wind turbines.  One thousand of the homes were sold multiple times during the eight-year time frame. Surprisingly, they found that wind turbines had “no statistically significant effect on property values”. MPAC did their own analysis using the 2016 Current Value Assessment and came to the same conclusion.

There is no market evidence that property values decline due to a pipeline passing through a property. Typically, the pipeline is buried deep enough that it does not affect the use of the property.

Rennick stated that they are going to be closely watching sales of properties close to the trails on the abandoned railroad bed in Renfrew County to see if there is an effect on the property values. Some people see the easy access to trails as a positive while others think the noise and snow machine traffic are a negative.

MPAC classifies wetland as a swamp. However, if an environmental designation, for example wetland, results in restrictions so that a person cannot build a house on their property, give MPAC a call because that certainly does affect the property’s value.

The audience expressed their appreciation to Rennick and McIntyre for the informative and valuable presentation.