Indiana Tax Court affirms assessment of vacant lot based on appraisal and testimony of the appraiser

Indiana Tax Court affirms assessment of vacant lot based on appraisal and testimony of the appraiser

 

Indiana Tax Court affirmed the assessment of a vacant lot, holding that the Indiana Board of Tax Review’s ruling “comports with the law and is supported by substantial evidence.”

Name:  Sheerin v. LaPorte County Assessor

Date Issued:  December 11, 2019

Property Type:   Vacant lot

Assessment Year:  2015

Point of Interest:  Appraisal offered by Assessor had minor flaws but sufficiently established a prima facie case supporting the assessed value of a vacant lot. Relying on the appraisal and the appraiser’s testimony, the Indiana Board of Tax review did not abuse its discretion in affirming the assessed value.

Synopsis:  A 6,000 SF rectangular vacant lot, which was zoned residential, was “buildable,” but several issues would make any construction more costly than normal, i.e. it had a “severe slope,” a lack of rear access, the need for septic installation, and a proximity to overhead power lines. Though the County Board had reduced the assessment from $220,000 to $132,000, Owner appealed to the Indiana Board of Tax Review. Before the Indiana Board, Assessor had the burden of proof. Assessor engaged an appraiser who, relying on sales of three vacant lots, estimated the property’s vale at $160,000 as of January 1, 2015. Owner challenged the comparability of the three sales and claimed the appraiser made other errors. The Indiana Board affirmed the $132,000 assessment despite “minor flaws” in the appraisal, ruling the Assessor had made a prima facie case supporting the property’s assessment, which Owner failed to rebut with probative, market evidence. Assessor had not asked for an increase in the lot’s value.

Before the Tax Court, Owner repeated his arguments from the administrative appeal and asserted that the Indiana Board improperly deferred to the “perfidious” appraisal offered by the Assessor. The Tax Court observed, “When, as here, the Indiana Board determines the evidence presented at the administrative level has probative value, the Court will not reverse its determination that a litigant made a prima facie case absent an abuse of discretion.” Here, the Indiana Board concluded that the appraisal, despite its problems, and the appraiser’s testimony “provided a sufficient explanation of the methods and information used to derive the estimate of value.” Owner did not establish that the Indiana Board had abused its discretion because its final determination “comports with the law and is supported by substantial evidence.” The Tax Court affirmed the Indiana Board’s ruling.

Image by Pellinni.

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