Rising property taxes are one of the unfortunate realities of homeownership, especially when taxes increases outpace inflation or your salary.

American property owners paid $126 billion in real estate taxes during the first quarter of 2016, a jump of almost 6 percent from a year earlier, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Property taxes creep up due to two reasons: when a county or municipality increases its property tax rate, or when a local government reassesses the value of all the properties within its borders. While you can’t appeal your local property tax rate, you have the right to challenge your property assessment. If you're successful, the strategy can pay off with a lower tax bill.

“The main reason you want to appeal is if you think your property is overvalued by the assessor,” says Kay Bell, a tax expert with BankRate.com.

Here’s what you should do if you want to appeal:

  • Find out the deadline for filing an appeal. Some locations allow you to file an appeal at any time, but they might have a local appeals board that meets only once a year. If you don’t know when the board meets, you could have to wait a full year for your request to be heard. Your property tax bill or assessment should include information about how to start an appeal, or whom to contact, Bell says. The information should also be on your local government’s website.
  • Gather the information to make your case. Next, get a reality check, Bell says. Even though you might grumble about your property tax bill, the assessor might have correctly valued your home. Before starting the appeals process, you should independently verify what your home is worth. To do this, you can hire a certified independent fee appraiser, which typically costs a few hundred dollars, Bell says. Alternatively, you can examine the assessor’s description of your home for errors. If the assessor has stated your house is larger than it is, for instance, that can inflate the assessed value.
  • Check comparable home sales in your neighborhood. You should also examine the assessor’s valuation of similar properties. If those homes have either sold or are assessed below your home, you might have a case, Bell says. If not, you might want to rethink whether it's worth the time to continue with an appeal, she added.
  • Document your findings. You’ll need to provide your research to make your case, so keep an organized file with photographs, records of recent sales, or your independent appraisal.

In some cases, the local assessor might examine your appeal and make a decision. In other cases, you might need to present your case before a local appeals board. Be prepared to present your research. If you fail to convince the assessor or the appeals board, the next step would be to take your appeal to the state assessor.

Receiving a determination from your local appeals board could take several months, says Bell, who adds that homeowners should be aware of the time and effort before jumping in to the process.

“It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible,” she adds.