STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 21-18331|
|v.||)||Parcel No. 10G620691|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Angel Dotson (Complainant) appeals the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s decision valuing the subject residential property at $102,200 as of January 1, 2021. Complainant alleges overvaluation and asserts the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property as $92,446 as of January 1, 2021. The BOE decision is affirmed.
The evidentiary hearing was held on September 28, 2022, via Webex. Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe. The appeal was heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer Benjamin C. Slawson.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property. The subject residential property consists of a 9,500 square foot lot improved with a single family home located at 10721 Linnell Dr. in St. Louis, Missouri. The house was built in 1958 and has 1,272 square feet of living space. Complainant testified that the house is located on a corner lot of her subdivision and has a total of six rooms, including three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Complainant purchased the property in 2004 for $108,000. Complainant has not made any significant improvements in the last three years, nor has she had the property appraised in the last three years. Complainant has not listed the property for sale in the last three years. Complainant testified that the house is in pretty good condition but is in need of some repairs.
- Assessment and Valuation. Respondent determined that the subject property’s value as of January 1, 2021, was $109,900. The BOE determined the subject property’s appraised value as of January 1, 2021, was $102,200.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant introduced the following Exhibits which were admitted without objection:
|A||Pictures of the subject property and Section 8 property across the street from the subject property|
|B||Email and website link containing a list of properties near the subject property|
Complainant introduced Exhibit A consisting of several pages of photographs of the interior and exterior of the subject property. The photographs show ceiling damage from a leaky roof, water damage in the basement requiring removal of carpet and drywall, damage to one of the bedroom’s carpet and flooring caused by the family pet, and fire damage to the fence outside. Complainant testified that the subject property is in a food desert, another criteria reducing the value of the property. Complainant stated that the two main grocery stores that used to be near the subject property have been closed down.
Complainant also argued that her house is surrounded by Section 8 housing which negatively affects the marketability of the property. One property nearby is owned by dog breeders. Several other photographs in Exhibit A show the Section 8 property located across the street from the subject property. Complainant testified that the resident has a dumpster on the driveway. Complainant stated that this individual lets people dump all their trash there in exchange for a fee. Besides being unsightly and undesirable, this property has also resulted in an increased number of vermin in the neighborhood. Complainant has made complaints to authorities regarding this neighbor, but has been threatened when doing so. Complainant asserted that this Section 8 property and others has greatly reduced the value of her home.
Complainant also introduced Exhibit B, a list of properties near the subject property. Complainant’s realtor friend Treda Nicks-Lardge helped her compile this list. Complainant argued that these properties, which are similar to the subject, are appraised at a lesser amount that the subject property. Complainant presented all of these issues to the BOE. Complainant testified that she is not a licensed appraiser in the State of Missouri.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent introduced Exhibit 1, consisting of the BOE decision letter for the subject property. Exhibit 1 shows the BOE valued the subject property at $102,200. Exhibit 1 was admitted without objection.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $102,200.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
- Assessment and Valuation. Residential real property is assessed at 19% of its TVM as of January 1 of each odd-numbered year. Sections 137.115.1; 137.115.5(1)(a). The TVM is “the fair market value of the property on the valuation date[.]” Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Mo. Gaming Corp., 156 S.W.3d 341, 346 (Mo. banc 2005) (internal quotation omitted). The fair market value is “the price which the property would bring from a willing buyer when offered for sale by a willing seller.” Mo. Baptist Children’s Home v. State Tax Comm’n, 867 S.W.2d 510, 512 (Mo. banc 1993). “True value in money is defined in terms of value in exchange not value in use.” Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 7 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020) (internal quotation omitted). The TVM “is a function of [the property’s] highest and best use[.]” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 346. “Determining the true value in money is an issue of fact for the STC.” Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008).
The TVM of a property is typically determined by the sales comparison approach, the income approach, or the cost approach. Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Missouri Gaming Corp., 156 S.W.3d at 346-48.
- Evidence. The hearing officer is the finder of fact and determines the credibility and weight of the evidence. Kelly v. Mo. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Family Support Div., 456 S.W.3d 107, 111 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015). “Although technical rules of evidence are not controlling in administrative hearings, fundamental rules of evidence are applicable.” Mo. Church of Scientology v. State Tax Comm’n, 560 S.W.2d 837, 839 (Mo. banc 1977).
- Complainant’s Burden of Proof. The taxpayer bears the burden of proof and must show by a preponderance of the evidence the property is overvalued. Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003). The BOE’s valuation is presumptively correct. Tibbs, 599 S.W.3d at 7. The “taxpayer may rebut this presumption by presenting substantial and persuasive evidence that the valuation is erroneous.” Id. (internal quotation omitted). The taxpayer also must prove “the value that should have been placed on the property.” Id. “Substantial evidence is that evidence which, if true, has probative force upon the issues, and from which the trier of fact can reasonably decide the case on the fact issues.” Savage v. State Tax Comm’n, 722 S.W.2d 72, 77 (Mo. banc 1986) (internal quotation omitted). Evidence is persuasive when it has “sufficient weight and probative value to convince the trier of fact.” Daly v. P.D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645, 651 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); see also White v. Dir. of Revenue, 321 S.W.3d 298, 305 (Mo. banc 2010) (noting the burden of persuasion is the “party’s duty to convince the fact-finder to view the facts in a way that favors that party”).
Property owners are competent to testify to the reasonable fair market value of their property. Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 348. However, if owner’s testimony is based on “improper elements or an improper foundation[,]” it is not substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the presumptively correct BOE value. Id. at 349.
- Complainant Did Not Produce Substantial and Persuasive Evidence of Overvaluation.
Complainant proposes a value of $92,446, an amount which she testified was the previous appraised value determined by Respondent in 2019. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the presumptively correct BOE value. Complainant did not produce evidence supporting a comparable sales approach, income approach, or cost approach to value.
Concerning the condition issues with the subject property that Complainant testified about and which are evidenced in Exhibit A, Complainant provided no evidence providing a way to quantify the dollar amount effect of these issues on value. Complainant did not provide contractor estimates of repair costs. In addition, the fact that BOE reduced Respondent’s appraised value by $7,000 seems to suggest that perhaps some of these issues were considered by the BOE. Additionally, while Complainant persuasively testified that her Section 8 neighbors are undesirable, Complainant offered no evidence to quantify the effect, if any, these surrounding properties had on the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021. Last, Exhibit B lists values of properties near the subject property ranging from 67,750 to $129,900. Complainant testified that her realtor friend assisted her in finding these properties and that they show that her property is overvalued. However, it is not known that the house values listed in Exhibit B are actual comparable sales. It is not known whether these values Respondent’s appraised values for these properties or whether these are sales prices. “The comparable sales approach uses prices paid for similar properties in arms-length transactions and adjusts those prices to account for differences between the properties.” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 347-48 (internal quotation omitted). The comparable sales approach requires sales. Id. Therefore, Exhibit B does not persuasively and substantially show overvaluation.
Neither Complainant’s exhibits nor her testimony utilized the comparable sales approach, income approach, or cost approach to support her proposed value. The lack of evidence relating to a recognized valuation method renders Complainant’s proposed value speculative and unpersuasive. See Cohen, 251 S.W.3d at 349 (holding an opinion of value loses probative value when based on an improper foundation). Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence showing the BOE overvalued the subject property and “the value that should have been placed on the property.” Tibbs, 599 S.W.3d at 7.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation. The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $102,200.
Application for Review
A party may file an application for review of this decision within 30 days of the mailing date set forth in the certificate of service for this decision. The application “shall contain specific detailed grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous.” Section 138.432. The application must be in writing, and may be mailed to the State Tax Commission of Missouri, P.O. Box 146, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146, or emailed to Legal@stc.mo.gov. A copy of the application must be sent to each person listed below in the certificate of service. Failure to state specific facts or law upon which the application for review is based will result in summary denial. Section 138.432.
The Collector of St. Louis County, and the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall continue to hold the disputed taxes pending the possible filing of an application for review, unless the disputed taxes have been disbursed pursuant to a court order under the provisions of section 139.031.
SO ORDERED November 4, 2022.
Benjamin C. Slawson
Senior Hearing Officer
State Tax Commission
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been electronically mailed and/or sent by U.S. Mail on November 4, 2022, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
 Complainant timely filed a complaint for review of assessment. The State Tax Commission (STC) has authority to hear and decide Complainant’s appeal. Mo. Const. art. X, sec. 14; Section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000. All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.