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Moskowitz v. Cuyahoga County Board of Revision

Supreme Court of Ohio

May 30, 2017

Moskowitz, Appellant,
v.
Cuyahoga County Board of Revision et al., Appellees.

          Submitted April 4, 2017

         Appeal from the Board of Tax Appeals, No. 2014-1160.

          J. Alex Morton, for appellant.

          Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Reno J. Oradini Jr., Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellees.

          Per Curiam.

         {¶ 1} Appellant, Marvin Moskowitz, after successfully obtaining from the Cuyahoga County Board of Revision ("BOR") a property-value reduction for tax year 2012 from $148, 800 to $60, 000, appealed to the Board of Tax Appeals ("BTA"), seeking a further reduction to $25, 000. The BTA upheld the BOR's value, and on appeal to this court, Moskowitz contends that the record contains insufficient support for the BOR's value and clearly negates the Cuyahoga County fiscal officer's original assessment. On this basis, he urges us to accept his own opinion of value, $25, 000. Because we find that the BTA acted reasonably and lawfully in retaining the BOR's reduced value, we affirm.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         {¶ 2} Moskowitz filed a complaint challenging the $148, 800 valuation found by the fiscal officer for tax year 2012. The complaint sought a reduction to $70, 000 and asserted that the change was justified because "property values in general have declined in Cuyahoga County." The property is a two-family residence in Cleveland Heights.

         {¶ 3} At the BOR hearing, Moskowitz identified pictures showing various rooms in the house that had been damaged by fire in December 2000, and he testified that the fire had reduced the livable area. Moskowitz further testified that he had not had the money to repair the damage and so he had not finished the repairs during the 11 years between the fire and the lien date of January 1, 2012. Moskowitz opined that the property's value was between $25, 000 and $30, 000 in 2012, and he amended his complaint to seek a reduction to $25, 000.

         {¶ 4} In support of his claim, Moskowitz presented a table showing sales of nearby properties and comparing the fiscal officer's valuations for 2012 with the respective sale prices. No authenticating testimony was offered, but the document on its face purported to derive the information from the fiscal officer's website, and through counsel, Moskowitz asked that judicial notice be taken of the information. The table showed sale prices for properties near Moskowitz's property between August 2008 and November 2013, with prices ranging from a low of $0, for a property donated to a land bank, to $93, 000. No adjustments were performed to relate the sale prices to the value of the property at issue.

          {¶ 5} After the hearing, the BOR sent a representative to visit the property. The BOR transcript contains the representative's notes upon viewing the property. The notes indicate that the property was viewed on January 31, 2014, that the property was in "very poor condition, " and that the representative recommended that the condition of the property be changed from good to very poor in the fiscal officer's records. The representative suggested a reduced value in the range of $47, 800 to $60, 000.

         {¶ 6} The BOR's "Oral Hearing Worksheet and Journal Entry" refers to a proposed reduction in the valuation of the home of $88, 800, with the result that the total value was to be $60, 000. That was the value adopted, and the worksheet predicates the reduction on "revised square footage and condition as of tax lien date."

         {¶ 7} On appeal to the BTA, Moskowitz testified that when the county representative came to view his property, he asked Moskowitz how much money he had put into the property after the fire and Moskowitz told him $60, 000. Moskowitz surmises that that was the basis for reducing the value of the property to $60, 000. In its decision, the BTA rejected Moskowitz's list of comparable properties on the primary ground that no adjustments had been made to relate the sale prices to the value of the subject property. The BTA noted that the county had no duty to defend its valuations and that evidence of detrimental property characteristics was not sufficient to justify a reduction ...


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