Daily Court Reporter - News Proposal designed to clarify property value challenges
Proposal designed to clarify property value challenges
KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
The Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a bill codifying recent Ohio Supreme Court rulings that determined it is counter to state law to dismiss a property owner's challenge to property valuation on the basis of the misidentification of the property owner.
The bill's sponsor, Monclova Republican Rep. Derek Merrin, described the circumstance in which such a problem may arise.
"For example, John Smith owns a home; he files a complaint claiming his property is valued incorrectly," Merrin said during sponsor testimony. "Mr. Smith files the complaint listing himself as the property owner, but the true property owner on record may be John Smith LLC, John Smith Trust, John P. Smith, John Smith and spouse, or John Smith and business partner.
"In each scenario, the listed owner of the property is not fully accurate, and could be dismissed by a (county) Board of Revision."
The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the complainants in James Navratil Development Company v. Medina County Board. of Revision (2014) and Groveport Madison Local Schools Board of Education v. Franklin County Board of Revision (2013), reasoning the subject property is identified by parcel, as well as address, on any such complaint, rendering moot the argument for dismissal on the basis of an incomplete, partial or incorrect owner name.
"The name of the owner is irrelevant when determining the value of a property," Merrin said.
Current law does not require a complaint form to correctly identify the property owner, according to Ohio Legislative Service Commission analysis of House Bill 118.
"The bill expressly codifies these decisions, explicitly prohibiting a board of revision from dismissing a property tax complaint on the ground that it fails to properly identify the property owner," Sam Benham wrote for the commission.
It specifically requires the both the county auditor and the board of revision to exercise due diligence to ensure the correct property owner is notified if the complaint form does not correctly identify the property owner.
Continuing law requires a county auditor, who also serves as the secretary of the board of revision, to give notice to the property owner within 30 days after a complaint is filed if the complainant is a party other than the owner.
Additionally, a board of revision is required to notify a property owner of the time and location of any hearing scheduled on a complaint filed against the owner's property at least 10 days before the hearing.
Dan Acton, Government Affairs director of the Ohio Real Estate Investors Association, shared anecdotal instances of the problem among members of the investors association.
He characterized the circumstances as minor errors, misspellings or transposition of numbers that shouldn't undermine the integrity of the application for reduction of the intended property.
"OREIA supports this bill because ... investors operate on razor-thin profit margins for a property," Acton offered in testimony. "An unexpected repair, a tenant who does not pay rent, terminates a lease early or vacates without notice, unpaid water bills, or any layering of government fees that we are subjected to reduce the profits for a property owner that could otherwise be used to reduce the overall debt on the property.
"The opportunity to challenge a property tax is one of the tools that our members utilize to try to squeeze precious resources out of properties."
He said a dismissal of an otherwise legitimate challenge to property valuation can effectively wipe out an investor owner's profit margin with additional attorney fees and delays.
Merrin said rather than having to rely on case citation, Ohio property owners need only point to state law to offer direction to their board of revision with the pass of HB 118.
"I do believe the vast majority of Boards of Revision are following the Supreme Court ruling and do their best to ensure complaints are heard despite a technical error, such as misidentifying the property owner," he said. "However, there are 88 county boards of revision that handle thousands of complaints annually, and it's impossible to know if they are all following the law, the Supreme Court's ruling, or are aware of the ruling.
"With my research, I have talked to county auditors, board of revision members and attorneys that have extensive experience with (these) cases. As a result, I do believe this legislation is necessary and will make the board of revision process better across the state."
HB 118, which won the support of 15 cosponsors, cleared the House unanimously.
The measure awaits Senate consideration.
Date Published: May 30, 2017