Casual Legal: Information & property assessments
By Michael E. Swanberg
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider
Under section 299 of the Municipal Government Act (MGA), assessed persons have the right to see or receive information that is in the municipal assessor’s possession at the time of the request showing how the person’s assessment was prepared.
The scope of the information that the assessed person is entitled to is further defined in the Matters Relating to Assessment and Taxation Regulation, which clarifies that assessed persons are entitled to:
- all documents, records and other information in respect of that property
- descriptors and codes for variables used in the valuation model that was applied to the property
- where there is a range of descriptors or codes for a variable, the range and what descriptor and code was applied to the property
- any adjustments that were made outside the value of the variables used in the valuation model that affected the assessment of the property.
The required information does not include coefficients, and it only applies to information pertaining to the current taxation year’s assessment, not prior years. Also, if the assessed person has already filed a complaint with respect to their assessment, then the municipality is not obligated to respond to the section 299 request until the complaint has been heard and decided (see section 299(3)).
The Court of Appeal has found that section 299 should be interpreted broadly to ensure that assessed persons receive sufficient information to understand how their assessment was calculated. For instance, in Edmonton (City of) v. Ten 201 Jasper Avenue Ltd., 2020 ABCA 60, the Court of Appeal confirmed that municipalities may be required to disclose third-party information that was used in the preparation of the assessment, including rental and capitalization rate studies using data from other properties, if that information was used in preparing the assessment. If data obtained from third parties is provided to an assessed person, care should be taken to ensure confidential third-party information is not disclosed (see section 301 of the MGA). For instance, it may be necessary to redact information that could identify third party property owners or lessees.
Previously, municipalities were prohibited from relying on information that they failed to disclose (and should have) under a section 299 request at an ARB hearing pertaining to that property in the same taxation year. The Matters Relating to Assessment Complaints Regulation has since been amended to remove this provision, but municipalities can still be sanctioned by the minister in a compliance review if they fail to provide all documentation required under a section 299 request. Therefore, care should be taken to ensure that municipalities comply with their disclosure obligations under section 299.
To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] abmunis.ca (email) to the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] abmunis.ca (email) to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.
DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.