Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Board Finds Respondent's Comparable Sales Did Not Support Property's Assessed Value but Taxpayer's Guidelines-Based Arguments Failed to Support Any Further Reduction

Excerpts of the Board's Determination follow:

36. In this case, the Respondent had the burden of proving that the 2006 assessment was correct. At most, the Respondent tried to address the subject property’s value by offering sales evidence for three other residential properties from the same neighborhood. However, for sales data to be probative, the properties that sold must be sufficiently comparable to the property under appeal. Conclusory statements that a property is “similar” or “comparable” to another property are not sufficient. See Long at 470. Instead, one must identify the characteristics of the property under appeal and explain how those characteristics compare to those of the sold properties and how any relevant differences affect the properties’ relative values.

37. The Respondent offered purportedly comparable property sales with no related analysis. Other than describing a few general details about the sold properties, the record lacks evidence indicating how the properties are similar to the subject property or how they differ. Moreover, the Respondent did not show how any differences between the properties affected their relative values. She primarily relied on the fact that the sales were in the same neighborhood and averaged out to be more than the assessed value of the subject property. Thus, her sales comparison evidence lacked the type of analysis required by Long. The Board therefore finds that the Respondent’s evidence is insufficient to prove that the 2006 assessment is an accurate reflection of market value-in-use.

38.  Because the Respondent did not offer probative evidence of the property’s market value-in-use, the Respondent failed to meet the burden of proving that the assessment was correct. The assessment for 2006 must revert to the prior year’s assessment of $80,400. That, however, does not end the Board’s inquiry. The Petitioner requested the assessment be lowered to $48,577. Thus, the Petitioner has the burden of proving that it is entitled to any additional reduction. The Board therefore turns to the Petitioner’s evidence.

39. The bulk of the Petitioner’s evidence consists of photographs and testimony regarding the condition of subject property and its surrounding neighborhood. Those photographs show significant deferred maintenance to the subject property and two neighboring properties. The property record card indicates the subject property was in average condition, but the evidence presented does not support that rating. But determining a condition rating for a property is a subjective exercise, and just one of the many steps outlined in the Guidelines for determining a correct assessment. Whether one step of the Guidelines was properly applied does not directly answer the essential question of the property’s market value-in-use.

40. The Tax Court has held that one cannot make a case based on whether the Guidelines were applied properly. Eckerling v. Wayne Twp. Ass’r, 841 N.E.2d 674, 677 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2006). To successfully make his case, the Petitioner needed to show the assessment does not accurately reflect market value-in-use. Id.; see also P/A Builders & Developers, LLC v. Jennings County Ass’r, 842 N.E.2d 899, 900 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2006) (explaining the proper focus is not on methodology, but rather, on what the correct value actually is). Here, the Petitioner failed to prove a lower value that would be more accurate.

41. The Petitioner also argues that an area 300 feet from the subject property is in a brownfield. The Petitioner failed to offer any probative evidence on how this fact affects the market value-in-use of the subject property.

42. That being said, the Petitioner offered testimony of objective errors in the assessment. Specifically, a swimming pool, pool deck, and hot tub belonging to a neighboring parcel were erroneously assessed to the subject parcel. These assertions were not contested by the Respondent. Thus, the Board orders those items be removed from the subject property’s assessment and property record card.