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Elrabie v. Borough of Franklin Lakes

24 N.J. Tax 158 (2008)

TAXATION; ASSESSMENTS — There is a presumption of correctness given to a county board’s tax assessment judgment which stands until sufficient competent evidence to the contrary is introduced.

A homeowner challenged a 2007 municipal tax assessment before a county board of taxation. The board reduced the assessment, but the homeowner appealed. The municipality did not file a counterclaim. At trial, appraisers for both the homeowners and the municipality offered expert opinion on the valuation of the property. Both experts used the comparable sales approach to estimating the value of the residence for purposes of the 2007 tax year. However, each expert selected a different set of comparable sales. The homeowner’s expert focused on finding homes of a similar age to the subject property regardless of size. He indicated that buyers would look at the condition of the house and the quality of its amenities rather than at its size. The municipality’s expert testified that a more appropriate approach was to select homes of similar size, even if they were newer and had higher-quality amenities than the subject home. The municipality’s expert reached a final opinion of value by averaging the adjusted sales prices of the comparable sales he found and then rounded down to a higher value than determined by the county board.

The Tax Court pointed out that there is a presumption of correctness given to a county board’s tax assessment judgment which stands until sufficient competent evidence to the contrary is introduced. It then found the approach to valuation by the municipality’s expert was more credible than that taken by the homeowner’s expert. The Court found that nothing in the record suggested that the number and quality of amenities in the subject home were so lacking for a home of its size that a comparison with significantly smaller homes was justified. Nonetheless, the Court found that the municipality’s failure to file a complaint or counterclaim affirmatively seeking an increase in the county board’s judgment precluded the Court from raising the assessment beyond the amount that had been set by the county board. Therefore, it affirmed the judgment of the county board of taxation.


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