Details on Appeal Lawsuit

Details on Appeal Lawsuit

At the beginning of the month we wrote about a lawsuit that was filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court over an appeal of a property value by a taxing body based on the sale price of the home.  The home was sold in November of 2015 for $750,000 with an assessment at the time of $464,000 (62% of sale price).  After a school district appeal of the value, the assessed value was increased to $690,000 (92% of sale price, which was the Common Level Ratio in effect for July 2015 to June 2016, and would have been the time period in which the home sold).

We obtained a copy of the suit, in which the property owners are suing the County, the City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Public Schools and the County Board of Assessment Appeals and Review (BPAAR) but as a class action lawsuit.

The class that would be represented would be “all property owners in Allegheny County whose real estate tax assessment value was increased for the tax years 2014-16 by [BPAAR] due to a tax assessment appeal initiated by either Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, or Pittsburgh Public Schools” where value was increased on a current market value determination (a sale of a property following the reassessment) and not improvements or changes to the building or land.  Based on our data there were 3,245 appeals brought by the City or the Pittsburgh Public Schools in those years (the County brought no appeals in the City, the District, or anywhere in the County), or 13% of the 25,165 appeals heard (either initiated by the property owner, a governing body, or both) in those years.

The case hinges on language in the County’s Administrative Code (5-207.06) which says that the board cannot increase the base year value due to a sale of the property in a subsequent year.  However the BPAAR guide on assessment appeals states “The BPAAR will increase, decrease, or sustain the assessment based on the evidence of value presented at the hearing. Relevant evidence includes evidence of value of the property in the base year of 2012 OR evidence of the current market value of the property” and “Generally, arms-length sales of both the subject and comparable properties are most relevant as evidence of value.”

The complaint was filed July 31st.