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Allegheny County Homeowners File Suit Against Appeals Process

A group of homeowners in Allegheny County has filed suit against the county alleging that the hearing officers presiding over some property assessment appeals did not properly apply the law when making judgments.

The lawsuit specifically deals with homeowners who presented “certified appraisals" at their formal assessment appeal hearing.  Plaintiff lawyer Grey Pratt says case law stipulates that if a homeowner presents such a document, the Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review hearing officer must then throw out any comparable used to set the property’s value.  Pratt said in some cases that did not happen.

The suit goes on to allege that some assessment appeal rulings also did not include all of the necessary documentations. 

Pratt said those rulings were supposed to include the hearing officer’s “summary,” which includes details as to why he or she made the ruling, but in many cases the letter accompanying the rejection of the appeal only included a “generic disposition form that just lists several generic explanations, that does not provide much notice to the homeowner at all as to the actual reason why their appraised value was not accepted.”

The suit could go before Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick as early as Friday, Jan. 18th.  It seeks to create a class of homeowners whose certified appraisals were allegedly ignored by hearings officers. 

“We are not going to pinpoint any hearing officer and say, 'It is this particular person that is making that determination,'” said Pratt.  “We don’t know if this is a pattern or practice of any particular hearing officer.”  It is unclear how many property owners could be part of such a class.

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