County overvalues Heights properties

Has the county valued your home accurately for property tax purposes? In other words, does the value comport [compare?] with other properties that have sold on your street? Do you think that your home would sell for the amount at which the county has valued it? If the county's appraised value seems out of line to you, you are not alone. There seems to be a pattern of overvaluing homes for property tax purposes in Cuyahoga County, and this miscalculation by the county could be costing [homeowners] thousands of dollars.

As an example, there were two properties on Desota Avenue that the county valued at $137,000 and $126,000, respectively—values that were grossly out of line with other properties that sold on that street. The property owners appealed to the board of revision, which upheld the fiscal officer's valuation. The board's decision was appealed to the State Board of Tax Appeals, which also "rubber-stamped" the valuation[s]. It was not until the case was appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court that relief was granted. The Supreme Court ordered one property to be lowered to $5,000 [by $5,000] and ordered that the other property be sent back to the county for re-valuation. Subsequently, the county's appraiser re-valued it at $30,000.

Most property owners would find appealing to so many boards and courts a daunting task, would thus be discouraged from doing so, and would therefore accept the original overvaluation. The property owner/taxpayer will end up paying an amount in taxation that is grossly out of line with the value of his or her home, a grave injustice, in our opinion.

This injustice seems to be peculiar to Cuyahoga County and is widely recognized, but nothing much is being done about it. Upon investigation into the cause of the rampant overvaluation, it was discovered that the county is unique in the state, in that it developed its own in-house method to appraise property. All other counties in the state contract with outside appraisers. No one seems to know what factors are utilized in the Cuyahoga County system to determine property values, but the results tend to be much higher than they would be by any common-sense measure, such as comparable sales on the same street. Of course, if no one knows how the property values are determined, then the property owner is at a disadvantage in challenging the value. Thus, the property owner is denied the opportunity to assert his or her fundamental right to be taxed on the true value of the property.

We are challenging this injustice.

J. Alex Morton and Ruth Morton Fazio

J. Alex Morton and Ruth Morton Fazio are attorneys.

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Volume 10, Issue 3, Posted 3:00 PM, 02.28.2017