Condominium owners failed to show that excessive noise, foul odors, and persistent crime lowered their unit’s value.
In Kamenova v. Marion County Assessor, Cause No. 49T10-1108-TA-49 (June 4, 2014), Owners of a condominium unit argued the unit’s 2006 assessment was too high due to the negative impact of excessive noise, foul odors, and persistent crime on the property’s value. The unit was located in a six-story, mixed-use building with two bars in downtown Indianapolis. To support their claim, Owners submitted several photographs of the building, a fire incident report, a newspaper article, and a surveillance printout.
Taxpayers claiming obsolescence – described by the Court as a form of depreciation that is “either the functional or economic loss of value to property” – must identify the cause of the loss in value and quantify its impact on the property. Slip op. at 4 (citing Meadowbrook N. Apartments v. Conner, 854 N.E.2d 950, 954 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2005)). The Indiana Board had concluded that even if “the undesirable view, odor problems, excessive noise, and crime issues had diminished the value of their property, [Owners] did not present evidence that showed what a more accurate assessment would be.” Slip op. at 5. Because Owners had not quantified the unit’s loss in value, the Court held that the Indiana Board had not abused its discretion in denying their obsolescence claim.
Evidence of the values of three other units in the building also did not support an assessment reduction. Slip op. at 6. The Indiana Board had concluded that Owners had “not provide[d] any meaningful analysis as to the comparability of those properties” with the unit under appeal. Id. Owners had compared the units’ sizes, but that wasn’t sufficient to prove their similarity. Nor had Owners described the subject unit’s characteristics or explained how similarities or differences between the subject and purportedly comparable units impacted a determination of the subject unit’s market value-in-use.
Finally, the Court found that Owners had waived their argument that the unit’s assessment was based on an erroneous classification. Slip op. at 7-8. The argument had not been raised at the administrative hearing, and no facts in the record showed that the Assessor had used the classification in question. “It is well-settled that this Court generally cannot review an issue or argument raised for the first time on appeal because there would be no written findings in the record for the Court to review.” Slip op. at 7.
Owners appeared without counsel before the Indiana Board and Tax Court. The Court observed that their presentations “reflect some of the challenges taxpayers have in understanding the complexities of our property tax system.” Slip op. at 8. While “sympathetic to their plight,” the Court explained that “it is bound to apply the laws as written because pro se litigants are held to the same rules and standards as licensed attorneys.” Id.
The Court affirmed the Indiana Board’s final determination. Slip op. at 8.