A group of Cook County property owners have filed suit in Illinois federal court alleging that they are owed more than $27 million in property tax refunds due to discriminatory assessments by the County’s Treasurer and Assessor. These property owners claim they paid taxes at significantly higher levels than other taxpayers in the same class. The complaint alleges from 2000 through 2008, assessed valuations of single-family residential, commercial and industrial properties were not made by the assessor at percentages of market value required under the state Property Tax Code and the Illinois Constitution. As a result, the complaint says, the group collectively overpaid property taxes by more than $27.8 million on six properties.

The property owners also accuse the county assessor of destroying approximately 90 percent of electronic records of his assessments of single-family residential properties and records of his internal appeals process for all classes of property for tax years 2000 to 2006 and part of 2007. The owners allege the destruction of those records violated the law on preservation of public records.

The case is A.F. Moore & Associates Inc. et al. v. Pappas et al., case number 1:18-cv-04888, in the United States District Court for the Northern District Of Illinois.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed HB 863, which allows the PA’s real estate brokers, associate brokers and salespeople to provide broker price opinions. The law defines a BPO as “an estimate … that details the probable selling price of a particular parcel of real property and provides a varying level of detail about the property’s condition, market and neighborhood, and information on comparable sales.”

Brokers, associate brokers and salespeople must complete at least three hours of continuing education on BPO topics during the current or preceding two-year license period. Additionally, salespeople must have been licensed for at least three years prior to preparing BPOs and each BPO must be co-signed by their broker or associate broker. The law also outlines the minimum contents of a BPO and specifies that compensation due salespeople for a BPO be paid only to their affiliated broker.

The United States House of Representatives passed the Private Property Rights Protection Act by voice vote. It seeks to prohibit condemnations for economic development or over property that is used for economic development within seven years after that taking. It applies to state and local takings if that governmental entity receives federal economic development funds. It would also prohibit the federal government from exercising its power of eminent domain for economic development.

Many states have similar statutes. They were enacted in reaction to the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision.

The bill has been referred to the Senate for potential action.

The Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois (Chancery Division) ruled that attorneys who referenced comparable property valuations and market values based on an income approach as part of tax appeal proceedings were simply engaged in the traditional practice of law and not in appraisal practice. In Illinois State Bar Association vs. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, two attorneys were accused by the IDFPR of engaging in unlicensed appraisal practice after they submitted comparable property valuations, income approach information and market value opinions as part of two tax assessment appeals.

 

The main question before the court was whether an attorney representing a client in a tax proceeding violated the state’s Appraisal Act and functioned as an unlicensed appraiser when providing an analysis of comparable property valuations or developing an opinion of market value utilizing the income approach in a legal brief supporting a tax appeal. In its order granting summary judgement to the ISBA, the court stated, “There is nothing in the text and structure of the Appraisal Act that suggests that the General Assembly intended its prohibition on unlicensed appraisers to extend to what is the traditional practice of law in the property tax context.” The court further noted, “An attorney’s reference to comparable valuations in a property tax proceeding constitutes the practice of law, which is regulated exclusively by the Illinois Supreme Court.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that a Philadelphia homeowner was not entitled to attorneys’ fees under a PA consumer protection law because filing affirmative defenses doesn’t qualify as filing an “action” under the law. In Bayview Loan Servicing LLC v. Rodger Lindsay, 15 EAP 2017, in response to a foreclosure complaint, a borrower alleged that the lender violated PA’s Loan Interest and Protection Law, also known as Act 6. The lender subsequently withdrew the complaint. The borrower sought a reimbursement of his legal fees. The Court rejected that request holding that “An affirmative defense is not an action, but rather is the statement of new facts and arguments that, if true, will defeat a plaintiff’s action.”

It is clear that ride sharing has impacted the real estate community. One possible change is the value of properties near subways and bus stops. According to Bloomberg, “ride-sharing services such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc., and the advent of electric vehicles and driverless cars, are poised to chip away at the higher prices that real estate around subways and bus stops has earned, according to a report from MetLife Inc.’s asset-management business released. . . . All these changes would make it more attractive to develop real estate in areas that offer easy access to less congested roads but that might not be close to public transport, according to the report. People might consider migrating to the suburbs if the commute becomes easier.”

The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday vacated an Ohio Board of Tax Appeals decision affirming a county appraiser’s $8.8 million valuation of a Lowe’s Inc. property. The Court found, in a 4-3 decision, that new case law required reconsideration. These new cases established that comparable properties used to determine a property’s market value generally must be adjusted to reflect any lease encumbrances that might affect sale prices.

The case is Lowe’s Home Centers Inc et al., v. Washington County Board of Revision et al., slip opinion 2018-Ohio-1974, in the Supreme Court of Ohio.

The California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District certified for publication its recent decision in Tindell v. Murphy. In that case, mortgage borrowers sued an appraiser saying they relied on his appraisal to purchase their home. The trial court had dismissed the suit because the borrowers were not intended users of the appraisal since the appraisal was prepared for the lender, and the Court of Appeal upheld that decision. A discussion of that case can be found at http://www.appraiserlawblog.com/2018/05/newly-published-california-case-helpful.html

The House Financial Services Committee recently passed legislation exempting appraisers from having to conduct evaluations in accordance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice for loans under $250,000 that were held in a portfolio for three years. Appraisals are not required for loans of $250,000 or less, but federal bank regulatory policy requires lenders to obtain an evaluation to understand the collateral risk involved with the loan. HR 3221 is intended to create greater flexibility for lenders.