Arizona Court of Appeals Issues Decision: Highest and Best Use Will Be Part of Proper Analysis

Arizona Court of Appeals Decision Regarding Whether a Trial Court May Properly Admit Evidence of a Tax Protest to Establish Fair Market Value in a Deficiency Action

Division 1 of the Arizona Court of Appeals recently issued a decision in Roofing Wholesale Co., Inc. v. Neil, 2012 WL 1207349 (Ariz.App.Div.1) (2012). The decision was not approved for citing as a legal precedent except under limited conditions. Regardless, the opinion gives insight into how the Court of Appeals views the issue of tax appeal information being offered as evidence in a fair market valuation hearing.

The Court was presented with the issue of whether a trial court may properly admit evidence of a property owner’s “admissions” made in a tax protest in order to establish fair market value under A.R.S. §33-814, Arizona’s deficiency statute. The Court of Appeals declined to follow the decision of the Arizona Supreme Court in Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District v. Miller Park, L.L.C., 213 Ariz. 246 (2008) because Arizona deed of trust law (A.R.S. §33-814), according to the court, “does not demonstrate a legislative intent to adopt the highest and best use standard in a fair market valuation proceeding under the deficiency statutes.”

This opened the door for use of evidence from the property tax appeal in a fair market value proceeding under the deficiency statute. The Court’s reliance on the lack of an express adoption of the valuation principle, highest and best use, is puzzling. A property’s available uses or reasonably probable uses, at the time, drive its value in the market.

What the Court was possibly trying to reach was a standard that a trial court, which is tasked with determining value as of the date of the trustee’s sale, is not bound by a particular method to determine value. For example, the court explained that a judge may properly consider “various factors appearing in the testimony in any combination which is reasonable.” Whether it realized it or not, highest and best use will inevitably be a part of a proper analysis.

The use of valuation methods in eminent domain proceedings or deficiency actions requires experience with valuation theories and evidence laws. If you or anyone you know may be facing eminent domain or a valuation of real property, I urge you to meet with an experienced Arizona eminent domain attorney that can help you understand your options. Protect your property rights by calling (480)-428-3572 to set up a consultation.

The Maricopa County Assessor’s Office

The Maricopa County Assessor’s Office is responsible for assessing the property values of every property within the county’s boundaries. Their valuation appraisals determine individual and business property taxes, and, in the context of eminent domain, the compensation amount offered by the government. So, who is behind the entity that is deciding the worth of your property?

The County Assessor’s Office consists of the appointed County Assessor, Keith E. Russell, his leadership staff, and other employees, and is authorized to compute the Full Cash Values and Limited Values of all taxable properties. To insure that all properties have been assessed, the Assessor and his staff use aerial photographs, state land maps, GIS mapping, and appraiser canvasses. There are five County Assessor Offices in Maricopa County, two in Phoenix, with the others in Mesa, Sun City, and Sun City West.

While the Mission Statement of the County Assessor’s Office, as stated on their website, proclaims an attempt to “efficiently and effectively administer all laws and regulations to Maricopa County property owners” so that all taxed “property is fairly and equitably valued,” Full Cash Values of properties are often incorrectly estimated. If the Assessor’s Office determines your property value too high, your property tax will follow suit, forcing you to pay more than you should. On the contrary, if your property is valued too low, you would receive unfair ‘just compensation’ if faced with eminent domain.

If you believe that your property’s valuation may be incorrect, an experienced Arizona eminent domain attorney can help you file an appeal. Call (480)-428-3572 today to set up your consultation to discuss any questions or concerns you may have regarding the County Assessor’s Office or to determine your property’s true market value.

What is a Counter-Offer?

If you have been faced with eminent domain and the government has proposed a monetary offer for a property in your ownership, it is crucial that you precisely evaluate their offer before accepting it. If the offer seems even slightly less than you would have expected, making a counter-offer is something to seriously consider. In most cases, property owners will receive greater compensation after filing a claim against the condemning agency’s offer in an eminent domain proceeding. Keep in mind: appraisers often differ in their opinions of a property’s value by thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, so hiring a professional appraiser, such as an eminent domain attorney, is essential to your case.

Applying to the court for an order to increase the amount of the deposit is easier than you might think and will most likely yield you with a much higher cash amount for your property. An experienced Arizona eminent domain attorney can help you draft your claim by considering your property’s true value while comparing it to how much your property may be worth to the government.

Call (480)-428-3572 today for a consultation with me, Anthony Misseldine. Depending on your case, I may be able to get you a much higher compensation for your property than the government is currently offering you.

Arizona Property Rights

In 1998 in the city of New London, Connecticut, a plant was built by the drug company, Pfizer. Officials of the City attempted to purchase 115 residential homes to turn around and sell to commercial developers. When fifteen residents resisted, the City turned to its power of eminent domain to take the land.  One resident, Susette Kelo, opposed the taking through a legal challenge. The case ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the taking by the City of New London. The Court’s decision sparked a nationwide debate, fueled in part by disserting comments in the opinion.  Justice Clarence Thomas accused the verdict of violating the Fifth Amendment’s “public use” standard because property was forcibly transferred from one private owner to another.

Many states in the US, including Arizona, reacted strongly to this ruling and amended their property statutes. The Private Property Rights Protection Acts were instituted as an effort to prevent another situation, such as the Kelo vs. New London case, from happening in Arizona. Eminent domain rulings in Arizona require a judicial determination ensuring that the claimed usage of the land will indeed be “public.”

If you think you may be in danger of eminent domain violations against your property, contact an experienced Arizona eminent domain attorney immediately. Call (480)-428-3572 for a consultation, and I can help you with any questions or concerns you have about your Arizona Property Rights.