Sometimes you can beat City Hall

Over the years some Counties have enacted county tax assessment appeal rules that are designed to chill the rights of the taxpayers.  The County officials put roadblocks in the way to discourage the taxpayer from appealing an unfair assessment which means the County does not have to deal with illegal and incorrect assessed values. 

We represented a client in Crawford County, Pa last year.  Our client owned several small rental properties and based on the income and sales comparison approaches  to value, were overvalued and over-assessed by the County.  We appealed, and the County rules required that the taxpayer  submit all taxpayer’s evidence  to the County Assessment Board ten days prior to the hearing date, and also all valuations had to be prepared by a PA Certified Appraisal and presented at the hearing by the preparing Appraiser. 

There is nothing in the state assessment law that allows the County to require pre-hearing evidence (discovery in legalese) and it has always been the law in PA that an owner may testify to the value of his own property.  Although the discovery rule had possible due process risks, the appraisal requirement put a financial burden on any taxpayer who wanted to appeal his own property value.  The state law says any credible and relevant evidence must be considered not a certified appraisal.  My client to his credit decided to challenge those County rules in Court.  Not just for himself, but for all the property owners who want to do their own tax appeals without having to hire a professional appraiser and the added cost.

The case was settled out of Court with the County agreeing to strike the appraisal requirement and the evidence requirement will not be mandatory but requested.  We agreed with the changes and the suit was withdraw by my client. The County Solicitor was a reasonable guy and with his cooperation we solved a problem that denied taxpayers their rights.

Who says you can’t fight City Hall?

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