Preparing for Grievance Day

 

Excessive Assessment Appeal Services

Michael DeRosa Assessment Appeal Advocate
(c) (315) 406-7355
Mike Franklin Unique Property Advocate
(315) 876-2262
(e) info@PreparingForGrievanceDay.com

 

2019 Appeals

I'll speak in general term regarding SCAR cases and what transpired. I will not identify parties, but rather the issues addressed:

1) Petitioner had recently purchased the property that had been on market for three years at arms length. The assessment had been more than $100,000 higher than purchase price. Petitioner was building a house and lived in a trailer on site. Improvements had been made to the waterfront by previous owner. But the sale price was given weight. There were other sales of superior properties that were assessed for less. So combining sale price of subject property with comparable sales suggested a reduction of ~ 60% of the difference in opinion.

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2) Property had been assessed at a figure higher than any property had ever sold in the township. It was reduced at BAR but still was higher than any sale in the history of the town. The property had been listed at that price for sale and had not sold. Petitioner representative agreed the owner had more than double the assessed value invested in the property. But cost does not necessarily equal value. Particularly when the cost has never been achieved and had not been achieved when listed. Legitimate arguments could be made for substantially more and substantially less than the current assessed value and there is no right answer. The Petitioner and Assessor were able to agree upon a figure and a decision was not necessary.

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3) Property assessed at more than double the previous assessment was reduced by ~ 10% at BAR. It was raised from less than half current assessed value it had been for years. Testimony indicated that the property was singled out for more than double increase due to improvements from 15 to 20 years ago that were previously unknown to Assessor and relayed thru complaints by neighbors. It was asserted by Assessor that the improvements from 1998 – 2005 were undocumented via required building permits as required by the town.

Interestingly, a neighbor whose dock sticks out in front of this property is also assessed at the original assessment before BAR reduction though it is nearly double the square footage, has a huge dock setup, significant landscaping, a substantial garage that appears to have an apartment ...... and is nearly 100 years newer than subject property.

Both properties have irregularities in their waterfront. And it appears the neighbor may have raised the issue with the Assessor due to his or her frustration with assessment issues. The Assessor testified there were multiple complaints though it is unclear if any were formal. The neighboring property to subject appears to be fairly accurately assessed for fair market but it’s assessment appears to be unequal. If that neighbor was upset by comparison of his assessment to the subject property my observation is he should have been upset about many others as well.

In addition it appears as though that very neighbor is the Code enforcement officer for the town and that he may have provided Assessor access to his property so that Assessor could look at the subject property.

The town web site indicates the following in regard to the code enforcement officer: “The Code Enforcement Officer and Planning Board play a major role in preserving the integrity of the .....neighborhoods, buildings and overall quality of life in the Town.”

This is a noble aspiration….. but the current situation does not appear to have been handled as well as it could. It is apparent the property owners feel mistreated. And I can sympathize with their position. Perhaps moving forward these matters can be handled to appease these concerns and be more consistent with the above quoted goal.

This case is particularly unusual in that the right hand neighbors dock (the neighbor mentioned above) sticks out in front of subject property beyond the left side of subject house. So that if the neighbor is having a party on his large dock the entire frontal view of the subject property is to the dock.

It is a bad bad setup, exasperated by the narrow cove. It is particularly a problem if you are not friendly with your neighbor as appears to be the case here. It is a highly irregular situation. To emphasize the problem, the neighbors dock not only sticks out in front of the view of the subject property, it is also huge and obtrusive. The square footage of the dock looks to be half the square footage of the subject house and is in direct line of subject property view. Not good. For the property owners to get to their own dock they have to walk down and over almost to the neighboring property. So it creates a double problem that can significantly impair resale value. Or resale at all.

It is clear that the subject property has been upgraded and enhanced. And it is clear the old assessment was low. But it is equally clear that with the waterfront configuration issues, $192,000 is high. No sales have been presented to substantiate that figure. In fact petitioners representative provided sales to support their position that were not disputed by the Assessor. So I think $192,000 is clearly an excessive assessment. But I also believe looking at area assessments that close-by assessments are low compared to likely sales prices. So I believe there is also an unequal assessment issue as well. The petitioners representative provided many examples of unequal assessments and the Assessor did not challenge those either.


The Assessor provided no comparable sales and provided no comparable assessments. Her argument was limited to improvements... which had been done 15 to 20 years ago but never detected by the Assessor until now.... as a result of the complaints.


I also believe an over-night doubling of a property owners taxes after 20 Years is simply not right.

I am going to adjust this assessment to ~ a 60% reduction of difference in opinion.

Subject property is a nice cottage with a peculiar waterfront configuration that is hard to anticipate how it would impact resale value. I think it would sell for what I am going to reduce it to quite easily. Perhaps more. But that issue and demonstrated assessments being low compared to likely resale value I can not condone the assessment figure . And it appears there is a wide-spread issue of water front properties in at least this part of the lake being assessed under fair market value.


If other properties get assessed closer to fair market value then I could see justification for raising this property somewhat. Until then I believe a reduction of about 60% of difference is equitable.

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4) Petitioner demonstrated in great detail that the majority of surrounding properties assessments have not changed since 2007.

They also demonstrated Assessor raised their assessment as a result of their purchase of the property and that had they not purchased the property likely the assessment would not have changed.

Petitioner argues unequal assessment and I agree that they have made that case. When the Assessor gets the area properties to fair market value he may at that time justify a higher figure, but frankly I doubt even then he could justify much more than the previous assessment. This property has very little water influence and the water influence there is poor. Assessor provided many prime waterfront properties as comparable's that simply are not comparable. They have a 10 foot water access and a cabin in the woods with no views. The cabin acreage should not be compared to waterfront properties. Only the 10 foot strip should. A near-by similar water access is an actual parcel assessed at $18,000 with 15 feet access. So that places water access at below $15,000 for this property using that assessment as a comparable. The rest of the petitioners parcel is non waterfront.

Assessor provided a large number of “comparable sales” of which I found most were not comparable at all and several supported the petitioners position not the Assessors.

I believe the petitioner could also win on excessive assessment due to their unique circumstances.

The lake is irregularly shaped so it is problematic to compare waterfronts. It is even more problematic in the particular bay. An enormous amount of work is needed to compare properties in this area. The Petitioner did that work in tremendous detail and met their burden of proof for a reduction.

To the contrary I do recognize that the property does have water access although limited and that is worth something. And to have a water access property at the low figure is almost unheard of. We do have this sale as recent, arms length and not abnormal and we can not use it alone to establish value. But it does mean something. It is difficult to value this precisely but in an attempt to be fair to all I am going to use the sale as a 1/3 influence. Since I have nothing else to use as comparable and I need two more sales to do so, I instead will use old assessments as the other 2/3rds influence. Meaning I’m using 2/3rds influence to return to the previous assessment. The difference between old assessment and new is $30,000. New Assessment was geared toward the sale. Therefore 1/3 of $30,000=$10,000. This is not an ideal way to calculate this matter. But I believe it to be as equitable as I can calculate under the circumstances.

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5) Petitioner lawyer requested significant reduction on an estate property that had been unoccupied for years, looked to have a 50% commercial influence. Because of the commercial influence and the lack of owner occupancy it was clear SCAR had no jurisdiction. But the Assessor was good enough to concede the property was over assessed and a stipulation was agreed to.

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6) Assessed at Nearly double what petitioner paid for it, Petitioner sought a 1/3 reduction.

Property owner purchased property recently for about half assessed value and about 20% greater than previous assessment and owners subsequently commenced renovations.

Property owner converted a property that was becoming dilapidated and returned it to respectable serviceable condition. Their work was clearly beneficial to the neighborhood.

The home according to testimony is grand fathered for an in-home commercial business utilizing 450sq ft.

The Assessor wanted to compare the property to other commercial influenced residential neighborhood properties. He utilized a sale of a similar area property at assessed value and considered it a comparable sale. I view the neighborhood that property is in to be more commercially oriented. Next to it is a Chinese restaurant. Subject property is surrounded by residential and multi-family residences. And I found the lots were different. No other comparable sales were presented that sold at assessed value of subject property or above. A couple were presented that were residential with businesses but sold for far less and needed work.

They may have been somewhat comparable before this renovation.

I found there simply wasn’t enough to go by as far as comparable analysis with like-properties with small commercial influence at the assessed value level. I’m thinking the owners paid a little too much and had to spend more than they had anticipated to get the property in suitable condition for the business.

There was a dispute as to what was spent to get the property where it is. And there is dispute as to whether it was a capital improvement. My observation is that there were configuration changes, but essentially a dilapidated building was returned to serviceable condition. For example, another wing was not added. The roof was repaired, the foundation was repaired, eaves repaired. The siding was repaired. It is possible the siding is higher quality than what was there. But over-all I view the renovation was correction for long forgone maintenance.

Whether it was a capital improvement or not isn’t relevant to fair market value in my view.

The property clearly is worth more than what petitioner is asking. I thought a doubling of the taxes was unconscionable. I can see how the property owner was upset by that. The parties were too far apart. So a hearing officer decision was necessary. I analyzed the data provided and concluded there were inadequate sales to make an accurate determination. The assessments in the area are lower than what was asked by Assessor.

I’m going to split the difference in opinion. To go higher would create a strong argument for unequal assessment. If the Assessor had better comparable sales data next time I’d likely not be adverse to an increase of $10,000 to $20,000 two years from now. But that large a jump over night I believe is the wrong thing to do to people who are doing good things, taking risks and making the neighborhood better.

It’s possible this property could sell for more but I don’t see data to substantiate it. And it is possible other properties in the area could sell for more than their assessed value as well. Splitting the difference seems equitable to me in a situation that has issues of both excessive and unequal assessment at the current assessed value.

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7) Petitioner requests 10% reduction.

The Petitioner testified adjustments were not made for the road that cuts thru her property dissecting her lot and impacting her more than the down road neighbors as progressively as you go down the dead end street there are less cars. And also she is on the curve and two cars have hit her house over the years. The street is parallel to the other properties. She is the only one on the curve.

She argues her assessment is excessive and unequal. She thoroughly demonstrates many other parcels that are assessed less than she is that should not be. She noted others had additional buildings which she lacks. She argues other have superior dockage.

The Assessor argues that he doesn’t include docks in valuation. Clearly an extensive dock would certainly impact resale value. So it is apparent that issue generates a difference in their opinions of value as others have investments in this aspect which she does not.

The difference in assessment argued is only ~10%. The analysis by the Petitioner is so thorough I think it would be impossible and unreasonable to expect an Assessor to know these kinds of details. I have found no discrepancies in her assertions.

I believe her assertions regarding the road issue, dockage and comparable assessments are accurate. I believe the assessor to be quite thorough as well. But this petitioner knows her neighborhood in great detail.

I think her property and others could sell in excess of assessed value as pretty much any waterfront is worth that figure. But I believe vs other assessments she is high.

I believe that the Assessor and I are at a disadvantage to this very meticulous property owner who knows her neighborhood like the back of her hand.

I’m going with her figure thru no fault of the Assessor. I am adjusting the assessment down 10% as she asks. I believe she could make arguments for less than that but I can not order less than what was requested.

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8) Assessment reduced by 7% at BAR. .
Property owner requested a further reduction of 60%.
Property owner representative argued regarding the neighborhood and demonstrated homes there are dilapidated and are worth very little. Even the houses with waterfront are worth very little.
Certainly, these homes impact subject property value negatively as they’d have to be driven past to get to this house.
The houses with water frontage have very small amount of frontage and the houses are close together.
Perhaps 1/5 to 1/10th the frontage and 1/10th to 1/20th the acreage.

The structure of subject property was recently built and in good condition. The others are old and in poor condition with inferior lots.
This property is also isolated to a degree from the others and has a very different setting with acreage and 300 feet of frontage. My opinion is that if this property were not associated with this neighborhood it would be worth a lot more. Perhaps as much or more than the original assessment. But the reality is that it is associated with this neighborhood.
A lot of dialog between assessor and property owner and representative transpired. Pluses and minuses were raised and the disagreement became narrowed. I believe the property owners representative pressed the Assessor as far as he could at 27% reduction. I believe a good faith negotiation took place. After reviewing all materials I do not believe I can improve upon that dialog with any degree of justifiable accuracy. I believe there are legitimate arguments both higher and lower than this figure. The property could be worth more due to its waterfront and setting. But I also understand the negative influence of the streets that lead up to it.
I think 27% reduction is fair. And if anything, I considered leaning higher due to the significant waterfront. But the negative influence of the neighborhood is to too great to over look

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9) Tax payer apparently submitted 5 of 6 petitions to the right place and one went to the wrong place but, I believe in the right building. Assessor wanted case dismissed because filing was not done on time. Clerk made me aware of this and indicated she was going to return the petitions and no hearing scheduled. I said I am a public servant in customer service business and if we can accommodate customers were should. The petitions were mailed to me and I proceeded. The Assessor objected, I told Assessor he could bring objections up at hearing. Town Attorney intervened and said they had an obligation to follow the law. I told him the particulars had not been relayed to me but they could relay them in the hearing and I'd take their objections into consideration. A hearing date was set. Assessor indicated he could not make it even though he was given alternative scheduling options. I told him the hearing would proceed as scheduled. Prior to hearing Assessor stipulated with tax payer and agreed to ~25% reduction on one petition and 3% on the other.

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10) A somewhat dilapidated home was purchased and was being worked on by tax payer. Petitioner asked assessment be cut in half. A detailed discussion regarding the condition of the property ensured. Tax payer had a lot of photos which really helped. Assessor acknowledged a reduction would be appropriate and an adjustment to 69 of assessed value was agreed upon. It was great to see reasonable people work out something fair.

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11) Petitioner requested assessment reduced by half on a recently purchased waterfront home. Petitioner testified she does not occupy the property. The property is boat access only and in significant disrepair. SCAR had no jurisdiction. But it was good to see the Assessor agree to a 1/3 reduction. It was the right thing to do vs force petitioner to go to Supreme Court.



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Grievance Day Advocates

Michael DeRosa Advocate (c) (315) 406-7355

Mike Franklin Advocate (c) (315) 876-2262