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Judge refuses to order Allegheny County to use homeowners' appraisals for values

| Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, 2:50 p.m.

The judge overseeing Allegheny County's property reassessment on Monday rejected a request to compel the county to accept homeowner-provided certified appraisals as definitive evidence of their property value.

The owners of eight homes sued the county and its Board of Property Assessment and Appeals last month, claiming that hearing officers improperly ignored credible evidence from homeowners who appealed their property reassessments. The lawsuit alleged that certified appraisals presented as evidence by homeowners did not receive proper consideration and that homeowners were given no explanation why that happened.

The plaintiffs' attorney argued to Senior Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. that if a homeowner presents a certified appraisal, the hearing officer should be required to accept that value as the assessed value unless a taxing body presents its own certified appraisal.

Wettick disagreed and in an eight-page ruling wrote that case law “does not support the plaintiffs' claim that in a single-expert hearing, the hearing officer cannot assess the property at any fair market value other than the appraiser's recommended fair market value.”

“It's what we expected,” said county solicitor Andrew Szefi. “My only hope is that people with credible appraisals are (appealing) to the Board of Viewers instead of relying on this flawed class-action suit.”

The judge did not throw out the lawsuit but declined to immediately require the county to retroactively accept all certified appraisals as the proper assessed values.

Plaintiffs' attorney David Huntley said he disagreed with the ruling in declining to grant an injunction and said the case “absolutely” will continue.

“We're disappointed, but we still believe our case has merit,” Huntley said. “This was really just a request for a preliminary injunction.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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