Frequently Asked Questions
Filter by DepartmentAssessor Auditor Environmental Health Land Use Sheriff Social Services Treasurer Show All
How does the Assessor estimate market value?
To estimate the market value of your property, the Assessor generally uses three approaches. The first approach is to find properties that are comparable to yours which have sold recently. Local conditions peculiar to your property are taken into consideration. The assessor also uses sales ratio studies to determine the general level of assessment in a community, in order to adjust for local conditions. This method is generally referred to as the MARKET APPROACH and usually considered the most important in determining the value of residential property.
The second approach is the COST APPROACH and is an estimate of how many dollars at current labor and material prices it would take to replace your property with one similar to it. In the event improvement is not new appropriate amounts for depreciation and obsolescence would be deducted from replacement value. The value of the land then would be added to arrive at the total estimate of value.
The INCOME APPROACH is the third method used if your property produces income such as an apartment or office building. In that case, your property could be valued according to its ability to produce income under prudent management; in other words, what another investor would give for a property in order to gain its income. The income approach is the most complex of the three approaches because of the research, information and analysis, necessary for an accurate estimate of value. This method requires thorough knowledge of local and national financial conditions, as well as any developmental trends in the area of the subject properly being appraised since errors or inaccurate information can seriously affect the final estimate of value.
What are tax levies and assessed values?
There are a number of different taxing districts in a jurisdiction, each with a different levy. Each year the County Auditor determines for that district a levy that will yield enough money to pay for schools, police and fire protection, road maintenance, and other services budgeted for in that area. The tax levy is applied to each $1,000 of a property's taxable value. The value determined by the assessor is the assessed value and is the value indicated on the assessment roll. The taxable value is the value determined by the auditor after application of state ordered "rollback" percentages for the various classes of property, with other properties always compare with the value on the assessment roll of the assessor's property record cards and not the value indicated on the tax statement.
What do I do if I disagree with the assessor's estimate of value?
If you disagree with the assessor's estimate of value, please consider these two questions before proceeding, as outlined below:
- What is the actual market value of my property?
- How does the value compare to the similar properties in the neighborhood?
If you have any questions about the assessment of your property, feel free to come in and discuss it with the assessor.
You may file a written protest with the Board of Review, which is composed of three or five members from various areas of the assessing jurisdiction. The Board operates independently of the assessor's office and has the power to confirm or to adjust either upward or downward any assessment.
If you are not satisfied with the decision of the Board of Review you may appeal to district court within twenty days after adjournment of said Board, or twenty days after May 31st, whichever is later (sections 441.38 and 441.38, Code of Iowa). Or appeals to the Property Assessment Appeal Board may be taken from the board of review action within 20 days after the adjournment of the board of review or May 31, whichever is later (sections 441.37A, 441.38 & 441.39, Code of Iowa).
What is a "rollback"?
The "rollback" is the percentage of actual value that is determined by the Director of Revenue and Finance each year on the several classes of property where the total value increase STATEWIDE, exceeds three percent for each class of property. The percentage so determined by the Director of Revenue and Finance is certified to and applied by the local County Auditor to all property in each class affected throughout the State. Percentages determined by the Director of Revenue and Finance are the same for all the assessing jurisdictions in the State.
Increases in assessed value of individual parcels of property, as determined by the Assessor, may exceed four percent within a jurisdiction. Agricultural property, except agricultural dwellings, are assessed on the basis of productivity and net earning capacity using a five-year crop average and capitalized at a rate set by the Legislature. The rate is currently seven percent. Tentative and final equalization orders are issued by the Director of Revenue and Finance in odd-numbered years on or about August 15th and October 1st, respectively. The orders are sent to the various County Auditors who apply them to the classes of property affected if any.
What is market value?
The market value of a property is an estimate of the price that it would sell for on the open market on January First of the year of assessment. This is sometimes referred to as the "arms-length transaction" or "willing buyer/willing seller" concept.
Why do values change?
State law requires that all real property be reassessed every two years. The current law requires the reassessment to occur in odd-numbered years. Changes in market value as indicated by research, sales ratio studies, and analysis of local conditions as well as economic trends both in and outside the construction industry are used in determining your assessment.
Can I pick up or request a ballot for someone else?
No. In Iowa you can only request an absentee ballot for yourself.
Can I request an absentee ballot by email or fax?
Yes. You may request an absentee ballot via email or fax and a ballot will be mailed to you. However, in order for your ballot to be counted you must also mail in or drop off the original paper ballot request.
Can I use power of attorney to request a ballot for my spouse, child or parent?
No. Under Iowa law, power of attorney does not apply for all election related matters.
Can someone else return my absentee ballot for me?
The only people who may return a ballot for a voter are:
- someone living in the voter’s household
- an immediate family member
- a special precinct election official delivering a ballot for health care residents
- a delivery agent, in the case of a voter unable to return a ballot due to blindness or other disability
Do I need to sign the return envelope of my absentee ballot?
Yes! Your absentee ballot cannot be counted unless you have signed the affidavit envelope that you return your ballot in. If we receive a ballot back that has not been signed we will attempt to contact you to get this fixed. Once contacted, you may decide to either:
- Request a replacement ballot and return it by 8:00 p.m. on election day
- Vote at the polls on election day
- Sign the affidavit in person at the county auditor’s office by 8:00 p.m. on election day
Do absentee ballots even get counted?
Yes. There is a myth that absentee ballots only get counted if the election is close, however, this is not true. Under Iowa law, every ballot must be counted.
What is the last day I can turn in my absentee ballot?
You are allowed to hand deliver your ballot to the Auditor’s office up until the time the polls close on Election Day. If you return your ballot through the mail, your ballot must arrive by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, with exceptions for individuals in the Safe at Home program and military/overseas citizens. Learn more on our Absentee Voting page.
Can I get help marking my ballot?
Yes. If you need assistance filling out your ballot ask a poll worker for help. A team of one republican and one democrat will come over and help you mark your ballot. Also available in each polling location is a ballot marking device that will read you all of the choices and then print out your marked ballot.
Can I register to vote on Election Day?
Yes. Iowa law allows for Election Day registration if you are able to provide proof of identification (i.e. valid photo ID) and proof of residency (i.e. utility bill with your name on it if your ID has an outdated address on it). If you are unable to provide one or both of these you are allowed to bring someone with you to attest that you have the right to vote.
Can I take my absentee ballot to the polls on Election Day and vote there?
Yes. If you have not returned your absentee ballot you may go to your polling place on Election Day and vote a regular ballot.
Do I need to show ID to vote?
Beginning January 1, 2019, Iowa voters will be required to show a driver’s license, non-driver’s ID, passport, military ID, veterans ID, Tribal ID or Voter ID Card at the polls before they vote. Voters, starting in 2019, without an ID may cast a provisional ballot or have another registered voter attest to their identity.
I am already registered but my information needs updated; can I do that on Election Day?
Yes. While it is recommended that you update your information prior to Election Day to speed things up at the polls, you may wait and do so on Election Day. If you are updating your address just make sure you are going to the polling place for your new address. When updating your address you will now need to provide proof of identity and proof of residency.
I can't get out of my car; can someone bring me a ballot to vote from there?
Yes. If you are unable to go inside the polling place a team of election workers will be sent out to your car to help you vote.
I lost my absentee ballot; can I just go vote on Election Day?
Yes. When you go to vote, a poll worker will verify with the auditor’s office that your absentee ballot has not been returned. If it is confirmed that the auditor’s office has not received a ballot from you then you will be given a new ballot to vote there.
What do I need to bring with me to vote?
Starting in January of 2019 you will be required to show identification. If you need to register to vote on Election Day, you must bring proof of identification and proof of residency.
What if I lost my ID or forgot to take one with me to the polls?
Starting in 2019, if you do not have your ID with you, you may either cast a provisional ballot or have another registered voter attest to your identity. Learn more about provisional ballots and attesting on our Voter ID page.
What if I'm still waiting in line when the polls close?
So long as you are in line to vote at the time the polls close you will be allowed to vote.
What is a provisional ballot?
If a voter’s eligibility is in question on Election Day they are allowed to cast a provisional ballot. After the voter marks their ballot and returns it to the poll worker, the voter is required to provide the necessary identification or documentation at the polling place before it closes or provide it at the Auditor’s Office by noon on the following Monday. If the canvass will be held earlier than the following Monday, the identification must be provided before the canvass.
If it is determined that you do have the right to vote in the precinct in which you voted, your ballot will then be counted and included in the final vote total.
Can I get a new ballot if I make a mistake or lose my ballot?
Yes. If you make a mistake on an absentee ballot mark your return envelope “Spoiled” and return it to the Auditor’s office either by mail or in person. If you return it by mail contact the Auditor’s office to be sent a new one.
On Election Day if you make a mistake on your ballot, return it to the poll worker to receive a new one. You are allowed up to three ballots so don’t make too many mistakes!
Can I vote for someone that is not on the ballot?
Yes. For each race on the ballot, a line is provided for you to write-in the name of someone for whom you wish to vote for. Make sure you color in the oval!
Can an independent vote in a primary election?
Yes and No. In Iowa, you must be a member of a political party (in 2020: Republican and Democrat) to vote in a primary election. However, anyone* can change parties on Election Day and vote. For independents to vote they must declare a political party.
*Precinct election officials may not change political parties within 30 days of an election.
Do I have to vote for everything on the ballot?
No. You can vote for as much or as little as you would like; it’s all up to you!
If I change my mind on who I want to vote for after I have returned my ballot, can I get a new one?
No. If you have already returned your absentee ballot to the Auditor’s office you may not request a new ballot if you have changed your mind on who you wish to vote for.
If I chose a party do I have to vote for all of their candidates?
It depends on the election. In primary elections, you can only vote for candidates from the party to which you belong. In general elections, you are free to vote for anyone you like, regardless of their party affiliation.
What if I don't have an ID?
Registered voters who do not have an Iowa driver’s license or non-operator’s ID were issued a voter ID card. Voter ID cards must be signed before going to the polls. The new voter ID card will contain a PIN number that will be used for voting purposes. If you should have a voter ID card and do not, please contact our office to have one sent to you.
What is Voter ID?
Starting in 2019, voters must provide an ID when going to vote. Voters who do not have ID will be allowed to either cast a provisional ballot or have another registered voter attest to their identification. Learn more about provisional ballots and attesting on our Voter ID page.
There are 6 approved types of identification that may be used:
- an Iowa Driver’s License or Non-Operator ID
- a Voter ID issued by the Secretary of State or the Auditor’s Office
- a current US Passport
- a US Military ID
- a US Veteran’s ID
- a Tribal ID
Where do I vote?
Where you vote is determined by where you live and you must vote in the precinct to which you are assigned for your ballot to be counted. To find your polling place please visit the Polling Places page on our website.
Can I update my voter registration over the phone?
No. All updates to voter registration must be made in writing or online through the Iowa DOT if you have an Iowa driver’s license.
Can a homeless person register to vote?
Yes. Any eligible voter in Iowa may register to vote. Because many of those who are homeless have a nontraditional address they just need to provide an address or description of where they sleep the most, wherever that may be.
Can someone with a previous felony conviction vote?
Those with a prior felony conviction are only permitted to vote if their voting rights have been restored by the Governor, including through Executive Order. For more information about restoration of rights, contact the Governor’s office or visit the voter registration page on our website.
Do I have to register to vote for every election?
No. You would only need to re-register if your information has changed and you need to update it.
How do I update my address?
If you have moved recently and need to update your address for voting, all you have to do is fill out a new voter registration form and submit it to the Auditor’s office. If you do not update your address after a move through a new voter registration form and do not vote in the next general election, you will be marked inactive (inactive voters may still vote with proper ID). Registration will be canceled if two more general elections pass with no voter activity.
I just registered and received a card in the mail but there is a mistake on it; what do I do now?
If you notice a mistake on your voter card please contact the Auditor’s Office and/or submit a new registration form to correct your information.
I registered as an independent; why does my card say "NP" or "No Party"?
Iowa does not recognize an “independent” party. Instead, “No Party” is used to indicate a lack of affiliation with a political party.
How do I report a food-related illness?
To report a food-related illness, call the State of Iowa hotline at (844) 469-2742.
Where do I submit a complaint regarding a licensed food establishment?
Black Hawk County Health Department is responsible for the inspection, education, investigation, and enforcement of licensed food establishments in Benton County. Contact the Black Hawk County Health Department at (319) 291-2413 to submit a complaint regarding a licensed food establishment.
How do I obtain a septic permit?
Septic permit applications are available on the department website as well as in the Environmental Health &; Land Use Office which is located in the basement of the Benton County Courthouse, 111 E 4 th St, Vinton. Prior to issuing a permit, the department will conduct an initial site evaluation – preferably with the certified contractor – to determine the suitability for a septic system and which type of septic system would be allowable. If a conventional system (soil treatment lines) is allowed, a percolation test must be conducted by a certified contractor. Once the initial site evaluation has been completed, the percolation test has been received (if applicable), and the permit application and fee have been received, the department will issue a septic permit which will be valid for one year.
What is the fee for a septic permit?
The septic permit fee is currently $250.00 for the construction or reconstruction of a septic system and $100.00 for the repair of a septic system.
How do I obtain a well permit?
Private water well permits are available on the department website as well as in
the Environmental Health &; Land Use Office which is located in the basement of the Benton County Courthouse, 111 E 4th St, Vinton. Prior to issuing a permit, the department will conduct an initial site evaluation either with the driller or after the driller has placed a flag marking the desired location of the well. Once the initial site evaluation has been completed and the permit application and fee have been received, the department will issue a private water well permit which will be valid for one year. Public water supply wells are permitted by the Water Supply Engineering section of the Iowa Department of Natural resources and they can be contacted by emailing [email protected] or by calling (515) 725-0275.
What is the fee for a well permit?
The private water well permit fee is currently $225.00.
Do I need to obtain a building permit prior to constructing, altering, reconstructing, or placing a structure?
Building permits are not required in the unincorporated area of Benton County. However, any construction within the 100-year floodplain requires a floodplain permit and the State of Iowa requires electrical permits. In addition, there may be land use requirements that must be met prior to construction, alteration, reconstruction, or placement of a structure. Contact the Environmental Health &; Land Use office to inquire what land use requirements must be met. If a property is within an incorporated city, you should contact your local building official or city hall to inquire if they require building permits.
How do I request an E911 address and/or sign?
E911 addresses are assigned by the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. Contact them at (319) 472-2337 to request an address or a sign.
Where do I find my legal description?
The full legal description for your property can be found on your land abstract,
deed, or survey of your property. An abbreviated description is available on the
Benton County Online Map Service (Beacon) which is accessible on the
Where do I inquire about land use regulations in Benton County?
Land use regulations for the unincorporated area of Benton County are administered by the Environmental Health & Land Use Office which is located in the basement of the Benton County Courthouse, 111 E 4th St, Vinton. Contact the Environmental Health &; Land Use Office at (319) 472-3119 to discuss your proposed request so they can guide you in the next steps to be completed.
Can I enter the residence I plan to purchase?
No, if the residence is unoccupied.
Yes, if the residence is occupied and you get permission to enter from the residents.
Can the Sheriff’s Office recommend an attorney?
Does the Sheriff’s Office have keys to the residence?
No. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office cannot give permission for you to enter a residence.
How does the bidding start?
The judgment holder almost always starts the bidding. Generally, the judgment holder bids in writing a plaintiff’s bid on judgment. The judgment holder’s bid, if given to the Sheriff prior to the sale, is considered a sealed bid and will not be disclosed until the sale is called.
If I get a Sheriff’s Deed and there are people living there, how do I get them out? Do I have to go through the eviction process?
These are questions for your attorney.
If I purchase and there is a redemption period, can I enter the property before the redemption period is up?
This is a question for your attorney.
If I purchase and there is a redemption period, when do I get a Sheriff’s Deed?
If you purchase property with a redemption period, you will be issued a Certificate of Purchase. When the redemption period is up, you may then return the original Certificate of Purchase to the Sheriff and receive a Sheriff’s Deed. If you lose the original Certificate of Purchase, you will not receive a Sheriff’s Deed until you get a court order directing the Sheriff to issue you a duplicate Certificate of Purchase. (626.96) If you fail to have a Sheriff’s Deed issued within 8 years after the date of issuance of the Certificate of Purchase, the Sheriff’s Sale will be cancelled. (626.97)
If I purchase at a Sheriff’s Sale, what name(s) and how should I have them typed on the Sheriff’s Deed or Certificate of Purchase?
This is a question for your attorney.
If I purchase at a Sheriff’s Sale, who is responsible for back property taxes?
Taxes stay with the property. If you made the purchase, you are now responsible for the taxes.
If I purchase property at a Sheriff's Sale, do I get clear title?
Clear title is not guaranteed to real property sold at a Sheriff's Sale.
What does redemption period mean?
The redemption period is the amount of time after the sale that the defendant has the right to redeem the real estate.
What happens if I am the highest bidder and change my mind about buying the property?
Pursuant to the Code of Iowa, 626.85, the judgment holder may proceed against you for the amount you bid. If the judgment holder does not wish to proceed against you, the sale will be treated as a nullity and the Sheriff’s Office will then proceed as mandated by the Code of Iowa.
When I get a Sheriff’s Deed, what do I do next?
This is a question for your attorney.
Can you help me find an apartment?
Our office does not assist with locating housing, but can provide them with a resource directory with a landlord list
Do you pay deposits?
No, this office does not assist with any type of deposit. Referrals are made to other local agencies.
Do you provide food vouchers?
No, individuals are encouraged to use the local food banks in the county.
Can I get my first-time CDL issued in Benton County?
Yes, you can but please do not schedule the appointment online. Please call into our office at (319) 472-2450 and schedule.
Can I put a vehicle title into someone else’s name?
Yes. The new owner does not need to be present at the time of transfer. However, the new owner will have to have the appropriate forms completed beforehand. If you are transferring a title on behalf of another person, you may download Form 411007 from the Iowa DOT website. They must complete and sign this form.
Can I renew my driver’s license in Benton County if I live in another county?
Yes you may renew your driver’s license at any driver’s license location.
Can I renew my vehicle registration in Benton County if I live in another county?
No, you must live in Benton County to renew your vehicle registration in the county that you live in.
Can any testing or drive exams be scheduled online?
No, they must be scheduled by calling (319) 472-2450. No walk ins will be allowed
Do I have to have an appointment?
The Benton County Treasurers Office is currently by appointment only for driver's license services, ID services, and testing.
To schedule a Drivers's License appointment please select the following link to schedule online. Online Drivers License Schedule or you may call (319) 472-2450.
How can we pay vehicle registrations?
- on the Iowa Treasurers website
- at the counter or
- by mail
How do I get a replacement title?
Download Form 411033 from the Iowa DOT website.
There is a 5-day waiting period if the original title is lost. (If the original has been altered or spoiled in some way, please submit the original title to us with Form 411033 and we will process a replacement title in the same day.)
Anybody whose name is on the face of the title MUST sign the replacement application.
The replacement title must be ordered where the title was made (county specific). The fee is $25.00.
How do I get a salvage title vehicle inspected?
You must complete the inspection form on the DOT website and then contact the sheriff’s office to schedule an inspection with them.
How do I order personalized/vanity license plates?
Most personalized license plates can be ordered online on the Iowa DOT website.
If paying registration online, where can I find my PIN?
Your PIN is specific to you and should not change so you can use it from year to year. The PIN is located on your renewal notice in the top right-hand corner. If you cannot find it, you can contact our office at (319) 472-2450.
Questions about abandoned vehicles?
Visit the Iowa DOT website for more information.
What are your hours?
Monday thru Friday
8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Monday thru Friday by appointment only
8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
To schedule testing, you must call the office.
What type of documents do I need to get the Real ID (gold star) on my license?
You must provide a certified birth certificate or valid passport, proof of social security, any name change documents ( certified marriage certificate or court document) if the name on the license is different from a birth certificate or passport, and two forms of residency such as mail, bank statement, voter registration card or lease agreement.