Property appraisal case between Palm Beach County homeowners, appraiser continues

By Charmaine Little | Jun 15, 2017

PALM BEACH COUNTY — A case between homeowners and an appraiser over a home's value continues an appeals court gave its opinion May 31.

PALM BEACH COUNTY — A case between homeowners and an appraiser over a home's value continues an appeals court gave its opinion May 31. 

The appellant, Gary Nikolits, filed an appeal in the 4th District Court of Appeal, claiming that the lower court’s judgment had mathematical errors.

The case also involves appellees homeowners Franklin Haney and Emeline Haney, as well as Anne Gannon, the tax collector for the county.

The homeowners purchased a property in 2008 for $23.5 million and spent $2.8 million to improve the property, according to court records. They were credited with a homestead tax exemption for 2009. The following year, the appraiser’s office valued the property at about $19.7 million, which the Haneys challenged to the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) to decrease it. 

Although they had put more than $24 million into the home, the Haneys said it was only worth $12 million because of a decline in the real estate market. The VAB agreed and reduced the amount, according to court documents. The appraiser filed an appeal. 

While the appeal was pending, the appraiser applied the Save Our Homes limit to the VAB value of $12 million so it would receive a cap of $12,758,672 by 2013. The appraiser gave the Truth in Millage notice to the homeowners to show the market value would be $19,614,912 in 2013. The court rejected both the VAB’s $12 million and the appraiser’s $19,780,167, and it decided that the market value was actually $17.5 million. The appraiser filed a Certificate of Correction for the increased market value.

The court dismissed the appraiser’s motion to challenge the amount under the notion of clerical, administrative, mathematical or factual errors. The court instead ruled that it was not an “error of omission or commission” and said that the VAB only corrected the property value as it was “seeking to make corrections based on a change in value due to an error in judgment.” The court also said the appraiser violated due process because he didn’t give the homeowners notice or opportunity to challenge the correction for 2011-13.

The appeals court said the VAB’s only choice was to consider a back assessment made within the calendar year if a particular form had been presented within that calendar year if the VAB had adjourned and the time for filing had elapsed. Considering the VAB adjourned for the years in this case when the appraiser applied the Certificate of Correction, the property owner should have received a notification on when they could petition the amount, the court said.

The appeals court ruled to reverse the circuit court’s decision and remand to permit the correct assessed amount and updated notifications to let the homeowners challenge the VAB over the new valuations.

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