Skyrocketing property evaluations & taxes


Pontiac hit by skyrocketing property evaluations and taxes

Tashi Farmilo & Bonnie James
Local Journalism Initiative 

MRC PONTIAC – Pontiac residents are grappling with steep increases in property taxes following recent re-evaluations of property values. The increases have come as a shock to many in one of Quebec’s poorest MRCs, where municipal services are limited.

Mansfield is one of the hardest hit areas. Local homeowner Hilde Noll expressed her dismay as the assessed value of her property on Chemin de la Chute soared from $7,900 to $157,900, an increase of 20 times! “We’re in a rural area; this isn’t the French Riviera!” Noll exclaimed, questioning the basis for the new ‘probable market value’ assessments.

Noll isn’t alone. Other residents have reported similar hikes, with evaluations for some cottages along the Coulonge River jumping from $45,600 to $232,500.

Mansfield isn’t the only municipality affected. Dale Shutt, who owns a home in Shawville, told the Journal: “My evaluation doubled. It’s gone up too high – previously, it probably was too low. So, I can’t complain completely, although it raised my taxes by 30%, which is a lot.”

Why the increase?
Mansfield Mayor Sandra Armstrong and Director General Éric Rochon explained the evaluation process. “Every three years, [a firm hired by the MRC] evaluates every house, and it’s out of our hands,” Armstrong stated. The current evaluator is Carl Provencher from the Quebec Federation of Municipalities (FQM).

Evaluations are based on market value, which is determined by sales in the area and other economic factors. “If you live in a sector where [many] houses are sold, your evaluation goes up,” Rochon noted.

Real estate agent Sébastien Bonnerot detailed the market dynamics affecting property valuations, emphasizing how the pandemic led to a significant increase in demand for vacation homes. “This is the first year of a new roll and values are based on the previous three years of sales. What’s happening now is a backlash of what happened in COVID, where property pricing doubled or tripled in the Pontiac due to high demand,” Bonnerot explained. He said the market has since stabilized, but evaluations are reflecting peak values from the pandemic, leading to higher property taxes.

MRC Property Assessment Manager Tim Ferrigan confirmed that the real estate market conditions considered in the creation of the 2024 rolls were that of July 1, 2022, 18 months prior to the current rolls coming into effect.

 A question of accuracy?In response to the Journal’s requests, Ferrigan provided a comprehensive insight into the evaluation process. He emphasised adherence to the legal obligations of property evaluation, highlighting the significance of the proportion median, a measure that ensures the accuracy of the municipal assessment roll by monitoring the ratio between the assessed value and the sale price of properties. The result obtained for the municipality as a whole must fall between 95 – 105%. Failure to meet this obligation would result in the assessment roll being refused. Ferrigan said all five municipalities receiving new rolls in 2024 fell within the required range.

However, questions remain as to the accuracy of the assessed values, as evidenced by a property with riverfront access near Noll recently being listed for $50,000 below the assessed value. “It seems very unusual, to say the least, that the municipal evaluation is now sometimes higher than the asking price – and the real value of the property.” Noll commented.

Ferrigan noted that it is not the responsibility of the assessment department or the evaluator (FQM) to carry out forecasts, trends, or other prospective studies, adding: “It is not our mandate to determine why there may be significant variations in the sale prices at any given time, e.g. COVID”

Ferrigan also said that his department had a huge number of calls and visits immediately following distribution of the 2024 tax bills, which he said was expected given the significant increase in values. “We realize some people may have been frustrated, but we are working hard as a team to get caught up and make sure everyone is heard before the April 30 deadline.” he added.

Regarding Noll’s Mansfield neighbourhood, Ferrigan said that following conversations with several concerned citizens, errors were discovered in the evaluations and corrections are necessary. He said that they will be offering revisions in that sector in the near future and that they have updated the residents who reached out.

Residents who disagree with their property assessment can request a review, a process that may eventually involve the Administrative Tribunal of Québec. The municipality has forms available for those seeking a revision, and the MRC’s evaluation department handles the reviews.