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Allegheny Co. Council Reverses Review Board's Changes to Property Assessment Appeals

The Allegheny County Council voted on Tuesday night to nix a few controversial changes that a county governing board had made to the property assessment appeals process.

The Board of Property Assessment and Review (BPAR) had changed its regulations in mid-March to allow only attorneys to represent property owners appealing reassessments, rather than certified appraisers, realtors and other professionals.

Real estate professionals came out in force Tuesday to denounce the BPAR revisions.

Jerry Speer, a former BPAR board member, said the county bar association consistently approached the board during his tenure to demand that attorneys have sole privelege to represent property owners, citing the possibility of illegal practice of law. At Tuesday's council meeting, Speer said he thinks that concern is moot.

"The only thing we could find in the process which could be considered the illegal practice of law ... was that someone could not ask a question of witnesses," Speer said. "That was the only thing that didn't have to be done, and we would not be, apparently, practicing law illegally."

Other speakers also appeared to denounce the rule changes, including a former BPAR director, a retired attorney and several realtors. Some suggested that attorneys are among the least fit to represent landowners who are appealing a property reassessment.

"Ninety-nine point nine percent of these issues are, 'What is the fair market value of the property in question?'" said Douglas Bovard, a state-certified appraiser. "The attorneys are not qualified to do that; they can't help with that."

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