The human side to the assessment issue, a happy ending

By Tom Rose

You may remember the story of Frank Pascoe of Trafford that we told on our website recently. He is an 80-year-old Korean War veteran who was wounded in combat and lives alone in his 100-year-old house.

Pascoe lives on a modest and fixed income and keeps a clean home, but it has not had any significant improvements to it in 50 years.

When the Allegheny County assessment figures were released in January, Pascoe’s home was given a value of $90,200.00. He was understandably shocked and concerned.

“If the county thinks my house is worth ninety thousand, I’ll sell it to them right now,” Pascoe said. “Somehow, I don’t think they will.”

When Ken Steidl and Kenny Steinberg learned of Pascoe’s assessment, they wanted to lend a hand in fighting what they believed was clearly an error. After compiling evidence for the case that supported a much lower value for the property, Attorney Lauren Lamb represented Pascoe’s interests at his formal review.

After reviewing the evidence presented by Attorney Lamb at the formal appeal, the Allegheny County Assessment Board of Viewers agreed with Attorney Lamb’s arguments, and lowered Pascoe’s assessed value to $28,000.

The decision results in considerable tax savings for Pascoe. Ironically, as a wounded veteran, Pascoe was eligible for a tax waiver, but he wasn’t looking for special treatment. All he wanted was to pay his fair share.

Thanks to the efforts of Steidl and Steinberg, that’s what he will do.

 

Allegheny County puts more information online for property reassessment challenges

Here’s some good information on information now available through the Allegheny County website on assessment appeals and comparative sales.
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In an effort to make it easier for Allegheny County residents to challenge their new property assessments, the county has added information on its website on comparable properties used to set values and other tips.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who opposed the court-ordered reassessment, announced today that the county website also will have handouts and a PowerPoint presentation available for review. Those items were used at a series of town hall meetings that officials held to help owners prepare their assessment challenges.

Nearly 60,000 formal appeals have been filed.

“All of the sales used in determining comparables have been compiled and are now available online which will help property owners find other comparables if they do not agree with the ones that they have,” Mr. Fitzgerald said in a prepared statement. “We hope that residents will take advantage of this and other information made available through the website.”

Mr. Fitzgerald recommended that property owners go here to find information on how to make a case for a reduced reassessment value, as well as what to expect during an appeal.

Also, this site allows for the reviewing of all property sales between January 2009 and March 2011, used as comparables to set new assessment values.

Mr. Fitzgerald reminded owners who have requested an informal review of their assessment — where assessors can review any mistakes about the characteristics of a property — that they must have that hearing by June 1.

If a hearing has been requested but not scheduled yet, owners should contact the Office of Property Assessment as soon as possible at OPAInformalReview@alleghenycounty.us or calling the assessment call center at 412-350-4600 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday.

The call center’s hours will be reduced to 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. beginning Monday.

Ed Blazina: eblazina@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1470.

Americans too broke to go bankrupt?

By Kenny Steinberg

Yes, it’s true!  At Steidl and Steinberg, we have dozens of clients who are kind enough to take the time to meet with us, and we never hear from them again.  We know that they have generally not gone to see other attorneys and filed papers with them because we actually check to see if they gone elsewhere.  So what happens with them and their debt?

Some of them are sued by one or more of their creditors, and judgments are taken by the creditor.  Arrangements can sometimes (but not always) be made with creditors to pay off the debt.  But that may leave the clients exposed to other lawsuits from other creditors while the clients have no more oo brmoney left over to arrange additional payments with their other creditors.  A bankruptcy can take care of this.

Sometimes the creditors get judgments and either don’t try to collect them (rare) or discover there are no assets to get.  The judgments just sit there and, as long as they are not taken care of, will negatively affect the client’s credit for years.  A bankruptcy can help here also.

Sometimes the creditor will look for assets to collect.  It’s a good thing that wages are not attachable by non-government related entities in Pennsylvania.  But if the client is working and depositing money in a bank account, those monies are fair game for the creditor as once the hard-earned work money hits the bank account, it is no longer protected.   Bankruptcies protect againstthis happening.  The bankruptcy is will stop this from happening.

If a person does not do anything with the debt and none of the above occurs, then eventually,the entry for the debt falls off the credit report.  You can get more information on when this occurs by looking at the web sites or other information put out by credit reporting agencies.  But in the meantime, having open debts on your credit report might actually be more harmful than having the bankruptcy on there.  Example:  if you are a lender looking at two almost-identical credit reports but one client has filed for bankruptcy and has been discharged all of the debt, and the other client has not filed for bankruptcy and still has open accounts that are not beingpaid, who would you lend to?  Certainly you would be more cautious to someone who owes and isn’t paying, versus another who has taken care of his or her debt by filing for a bankruptcy.

So yes, there are those who have taken the chance by not filing for bankruptcy because they either couldn’t afford it or for other reasons.  But it does pay to get the best advice possible before making such an important decision.

 

New location in Beaver

The Beaver office of Steidl and Steinberg has moved to a new and more convenient location.

The new office is located in the Huntington National Bank Building, which is located at 650 Corporation Street, Suite 303, Beaver, PA 15009. The new office has handicap access and there is also on-street parking available.

The Huntington Bank building fronts 3rd Street in Beaver and is centrally located and easy to find.

The Beaver office is staffed by Attorney Lauren Lamb and will serve clients in areas such as Ambridge, New Brighton, Aliquippa, Darlington, Beaver Falls, Hopewell, Raccoon Township, Center, Chippewa, Freedom, Monaca, Bridgewater and all of Beaver County.

Steidl and Steinberg’s convenient suburban locations are an effort to offer its personalized bankruptcy services to clients on a regional basis.  Lauren will help address the growing needs of consumers who are facing financial difficulties ranging from foreclosure, repossession, utility shutoffs, lawsuits, credit card debt, medical bills, sheriff sales and civil judgments. Lauren will advise you on which Chapter of bankruptcy, 7, 11 or 13, best serves your debt relief needs.

Lauren can address your bankruptcy questions during a free consultation.

Steidl and Steinberg library seminars

Did Allegheny County screw up your property assessment?

Hopefully that wasn’t the case. But given the amount of phone calls we’ve received on the matter, county property owners are concerned and confused regarding reassessment.  Steidl and Steinberg recently launched a series of free, informational seminars at to try to answer as many of these questions as possible.

The one-hour program is conducted by Attorney Lauren Lamb and she has been joined by attorneys Ken Steidl, Kenny Steinberg and Chris Frye to explain the history of the assessment process, how it is conducted, and what documentation is needed for the appeal process. Along with a formal presentation, the attorneys conduct a question and answer session and also address individual questions following the seminar.

Steidl and Steinberg would like to thank the community libraries in Moon, Shaler-North Hills, Penn Hills, Mt. Lebanon, Bethel Park, Bridgeville, Hampton and Baldwin for their cooperation and hospitality. Through 10 seminars, over 700 county property owners have attended the seminars.

If your community or library would like to host an free,  informational seminar on property assessments, call Steidl and Steinberg at 412-391-8000.