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Filer Beware! New Case Offers Instruction.

Owners of Ohio real estate must closely follow the directions when completing the DTE-1 form seeking a change in the county's tax value. Click here for instructions and the form provided by the Stark County Board of Revision. A simple mistake be costly.

A recent Supreme Court of Ohio case shows that a complaint can be thrown out (i.e., dismissed) for a very simple "mistake." In the case, Columbus City Schools Bd. of Edn. v. Franklin Cty. Bd. of Revision, Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-8844, the Court threw out the property owner's tax complaint because it was unclear who signed the complaint and what that individual's' relationship to the ownership entity was.

The Supreme Court of Ohio found: "The question is whether the individual who filed the complaint on [the Property Owner]’s behalf fell within the class of individuals authorized by statute to do so. If that statutory authority was lacking, the complaint must be dismissed as jurisdictionally defective."

In Ohio, the "class of individuals" who are authorized to file a tax valuation complaint is outlined in Ohio Revised Code Section R.C. 5715.19(A)(1). In paragraph 10 of the decision, the Court provided this instruction:

"The General Assembly’s intention in specifying this class of individuals was to furnish a list of people who may file on behalf of an owner when no attorney has performed the act of preparing and filing the complaint. In so specifying, the General Assembly did not throw open the door to allow any person to serve as another’s agent. Rather, it set forth a few specific relationships that tend to involve an ongoing relationship between the owner and the filer and that allow the owner to hold the filer accountable for his or her actions." [internal quotation marks and citations removed to increase the readability of the quoted section]

The Court pointed out that the burden of establishing a jurisdictionally sufficient complaint falls on the person filing the complaint. In this case, the property owner failed to appear at the Board of Revision hearing, waived appearance at the Board of Tax Appeals hearing, and failed to answer written discovery requests while the case was pending at the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals. Given these facts, and the questions raised by the School Board, the Court found that the complaint seeking a reduction in value must be dismissed.

The lesson for all persons filing tax valuation complaints is that you need to clearly identify yourself as a person listed in Ohio Revised Code Section R.C. 5715.19(A)(1). Also, you need to make sure that the signature on the complaint or in the documents attached to the complaint explains the signing person's relationship to the person or entity filing the tax valuation complaint. As an added note, it is almost always critical that a witness attend a Board of Revision hearing.

Good luck and call or write if you have any questions!

Copyright © 2017 by Stephen M. Nowak

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