Friday, September 6, 2013

Board Finds Respondent with Burden Failed to Support Assessment with Assessment Comparison

Excerpts of the Board's Determination follow:

The parties agree that the subject property’s assessment increased more than 5%—from $3,000 to $3,500—between March 1, 2010, and March 1, 2011. The Respondent therefore has the burden of proving that the assessment was correct. To the extent that the Petitioners seek an assessment below the previous year’s level, however, they have the burden of proving a lower value for the subject parcel.

Here, the Respondent attempted to support the subject parcel’s assessment by comparing it to the assessments of purportedly comparable properties. Indiana Code § 6-1.1-15-18 allows parties to introduce assessments of comparable properties to prove the market value-in-use of a property under appeal. But where an appeal involves a residential property, those comparable properties must be located in the same taxing district or within two miles of the taxing district’s boundary. Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-18(c)(1). Here, only one of the Respondent’s five comparable properties is in the subject parcel’s township, and the record does not show how far away from the township’s boundaries the other properties are located.

Even if one assumes that the parcels meet Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-18’s taxing-district requirements, other properties’ assessments do not necessarily prove the market value-in-use of a property under appeal. Instead, the party relying on those assessments must show that the other properties are comparable to the property under appeal and how relevant differences affect their relative values. See Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-18(c)(2) (requiring the use of generally accepted appraisal and assessment practices to determine whether properties are comparable); see also Long, 821 N.E.2d at 471 (finding sales data lacked probative value where they did not explain how purportedly comparable properties compared to their property or how relevant differences affected the properties’ relative market values-in-use).

Granted, the Respondent chose mostly tree-covered vacant lots that are roughly similar in size to the subject parcel. But her comparison of the parcels ended there. And she did not explain how any relevant differences between the parcels affected their relative values. Perhaps most importantly, at least part of the subject parcel contains streams and springs, and is located in a flood plain, while there is no indication that any of the other parcels suffer from similar problems.

The Respondent therefore failed to make a prima facie case that the subject parcel’s March 1, 2011 assessment of $3,500 was correct. But the Board’s inquiry does not end there—the Petitioners seek an assessment below the parcel’s March 1, 2010 value of $3,000. It is to that question that the Board now turns.

The Petitioners claim that the parcel’s wet and marshy condition limits its value to no more than $1,800 to $2,000. But simply listing a property’s problems does not suffice to prove its value. Instead, a party must offer probative evidence to quantify that value. Since the Petitioners failed to do that, the Board will not lower the subject parcel’s assessment below its March 1, 2010 level of $3,000.