State Tax Commission of Missouri
GEIGER REAL ESTATE, INC)
v.)Appeal Number 07-11407
PHILIP MUEHLHEAUSLER, ASSESSOR,)
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,)
DECISION AND ORDER
Decision of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization is SET ASIDE.The Commission finds there should have been no increase in the assessed value for the 2007 – 08 assessment cycle.
Complainant filed Complaint for Review of Assessment based upon Sections 137.115(10) and (11), RSMo, and St. Louis County Ordinance 501.250.The State Tax Commission ordered the Respondent to file documents to establish prima facie that they were in compliance with the statutes.The Complainant filed a Motion for Decision and the Respondent filed his response on March 24, 2009.
The Commission takes these appeals to determine the true value in money to be set for the 2007 – 08 assessment cycle under the provisions of Sections 137.115 and 138.060, RSMo.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. The subject property is located at 8731 Link Ave, St. Louis, Missouri.
2.The property was inspected on September 26, 2006 as part of a six year review.
3.A written notice of the inspection was left at the property.
4.The notice included that “St. Louis Co. ordinances allow a homeowner tochoose the type or types of home/property inspection he or she wishes to have.”
5.The notice stated that the purpose of the inspection was for six-year review.
6.A letter was mailed to the property owner notifying them that an inspection pursuant to the 6 year Maintenance Plan was conducted and that it would serve as an inspection for an increase in property value.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND DECISION
Complainant timely appealed to the State Tax Commission from the decision of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization.The Commission has jurisdiction to hear this appeal and correct any assessment which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, arbitrary or capricious.Article X, section 14, Mo. Const. of 1945; Sections 138.430, 138.431, RSMo.
Grounds for Appeal
The property under appeal is a subclass (1) property (residential) under Section 4(b), Article X, Mo. Constitution.The Complainant stated on the Complaint for Review of Assessment that the Assessor failed to comply with the physical inspection requirement of Sections 137.115.10 and 137.115.11, RSMo.
Section 137.115.10, RSMo – Requirement of Physical Inspection
Section 137.115.10, RSMo, 2006 Cum. Supp. (A.L. 2002 H.B. 1150, et al) establishes that: “Before the assessor may increase the assessed valuation of any parcel of subclass (1) real property by more than fifteen percent since the last assessment, excluding increases due to new construction or improvements, the assessor shall conduct a physical inspection of such property.”
Section 137.115.11, RSMo – Notice Regarding Physical Inspection
Section 137.115.11, RSMo, 2006 Cum. Supp. (A.L. 2002 H.B. 1150, et al) requires in those instances where a physical inspection is required under 137.115.10 (more than 15% increase in residential assessed value since last assessment), the assessor is required to (1) notify the property owner in writing of the fact of the physical inspection being required, and (2) provide the owner with clear written notice of the owner’s rights relating to the physical inspection.
Section 138.060, RSMo – Assessor’s Burden of Proof on Physical Inspection
Section 138.060, RSMo, 2006 Cum. Supp. (A.L. 2002 H.B. 1150, et al) provides in relevant part, that in St. Louis County, “… in the event a physical inspection of the subject property is required by subsection 10 of Section 137.115, RSMo, the assessor shall have the burden to establish the manner in which the physical inspection was performed and shall have the burden to prove that the physical inspection was performed in accordance with Section 137.115, RSMo.….”
St. Louis County Assessor’s Office, in complying with their assessment plan, inspects every residential parcel in the county at least one time in a six year period.This inspection is referred to as the “six-year review” inspection.St. Louis County conducted an exterior inspection of the property in September 2006 as part of the six-year review.The inspection was within a relevant time period of the valuation date of January 1, 2007.Further,St. LouisCountyis the largest assessment jurisdiction in the State ofMissouri.Over a quarter of a million residential parcels required inspection before the 2007 assessment could be completed.The purpose of Section 137.115, RSMo is to insure that the taxpayer’s property is inspected before an increase of over 15% may be finalized.An inspection occurring in September, 2006, fulfills the inspection purpose of the statute.
When Respondent inspected the property in September 2006, he provided the Complainant with a written notice that the inspection occurred and the notice included that the owner may request an additional exterior and/or interior property inspection.The Complainant was not notified, at that time, that its property value increased by more than 15%.
The Respondent’s notice did state that that an additional inspection may be requested. However, a taxpayer receiving notice that an inspection occurred for the purpose of a six-year review and a taxpayer receiving notice that an inspection is necessary for an increase in their valuation over 15% would have different considerations when determining if they would request an additional exterior and/or interior inspection.By failing to notify the property owner that an inspection is required prior to an increase in its valuation and its rights regarding physical inspections, the taxpayer is deprived of due process.
Notice of 15% Increase and Inspection
Section 137.115.11, RSMo, 2006 Cum. Supp. (A.L. 2002 H.B. 1150, et al) provides that the owner shall have no less than thirty days to notify the assessor of a request for an interior physical inspection.The purpose of the inspection is to insure the Assessor has the correct valuation in the assessment book.The Assessor’s power to change a valuation ceases after delivery of the book to the county’s governing body.Wymore v. Markway , 89 S.W.2d 9 (Mo. 1935).Section 137.375, RSMo, provides that the assessor shall make out and return to the
county commission the assessment books, on or before the fifteenth day of May in every year, unless the time is extended to May 31st as provided in Section 137.335, RSMo.
The Complainant received a notice of the rights related to the inspection.The Assessor did not provide evidence of when that inspection occurred.The Assessor must prove that the notice was provided at least thirty days prior to the last date the assessor is allowed to make out and return the assessment books.Respondent Assessor failed to carry their burden of proof.
The assessed valuation by the Board of Equalization forSt. LouisCountyfor subject property is SET ASIDE.The assessed value for the property for tax years 2007 and 2008 is as follows:
Geiger Real Estate
Judicial review of this Order may be had in the manner provided in Sections 138.432 and 536.100 to 536.140, RSMo within thirty days of the mailing date set forth in the Certificate of Service for this Decision.
If judicial review of this decision is made, any protested taxes presently in an escrow account in accordance with this appeal shall be held pending the final decision of the courts.If no judicial review is made within thirty (30) days, this decision and order is deemed final and the Collector of St. Louis County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall disburse the protested taxes presently in an escrow account in accord with the decision on the underlying assessment in this appeal.
If any or all protested taxes have been disbursed pursuant to Section 139.031(8), RSMo, Complainants may apply to the circuit court having jurisdiction of the cause for disposition of the protested taxes held by the taxing authority.
Any Finding of Fact which is a Conclusion of Law or Decision shall be so deemed.Any Decision which is a Finding of Fact or Conclusion of Law shall be so deemed.
SO ORDERED April 21, 2009
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Bruce E. Davis, Chairman
Jennifer Tidwell, Commissioner
Charles Nordwald, Commissioner
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been mailed postage prepaid on this 21stday of April, 2009, to:James Gamble, 8909 Ladue Road, St. Louis, MO 63124, Attorney for Complainants; Michael Shuman, Associate County Counselor, Attorney for Respondent, County Government Center, 41 South Central Avenue, Clayton, MO 63105; Philip Muehlheausler, Assessor, County Government Center, 41 South Central Avenue, Clayton, MO 63105; John Friganza, Collector, County Government Center, 41 South Central Avenue, Clayton, MO 63105.