Sunday, July 1, 2012

TX Appeals Court Nixes County Tax Collector's Attempt To Back Charge Homeowners For 5 Years Of R/E Assessments After Being Left Off Appraisal Records

In Parker County, Texas, the Star Telegram reports:

  • Parker County officials acted outside their legal authority by assessing five years of city taxes against properties mistakenly omitted from Aledo and Willow Park tax rolls, an appeals court has ruled.

  • The ruling potentially affects about 300 property owners who were assessed back taxes after the error was discovered. Plaintiffs asked for a class action case to be certified, but that issue has not been decided. Property owners who sued claimed they were not validly assessed taxes for the years in question.
  • The properties in question were properly appraised for the years in question, the appeals court noted, and property owners had paid all property taxes that had been assessed.

  • The problem, the court said, was that the city taxing units were not listed in the appraisal records, and state law does not allow the addition of taxing units mistakenly left off of appraisal records. The court also rejected the contention that the cities and county had government immunity from such lawsuits. Suits can be brought by private parties against government officials who allegedly act without legal authority, the court said.
  • After the chief appraiser discovered the error in 2008, the Parker County Appraisal District sent tax bills to approximately 300 households notifying them that their properties had been left off of city tax rolls for tax years 2003 to 2007.

  • Willow Park filed suit against some property owners and began foreclosure proceedings against Todd and Valerie Brennan for not paying the assessment. The Brennans countersued, and they were joined by some of the other affected property owners in both Willow Park and Aledo.

  • "What's giving this thing life more than anything else is the fact we're talking about a constitutional violation," said Trey Cobb, the defendants' property tax consultant with Kirkwood and Darby. Cobb added that it felt "fantastic knowing his clients won't be door-matted anymore by the city officials, appraisal district and review board personnel that are supposed to be serving them."
  • Cobb said he would like to see the matter return directly to district court, without further appeal, for trial or settlement. The district court would then rule on the property owners' claims for declaratory judgment, for injunctive relief and for a write of mandamus compelling the tax assessor and members of the Appraisal Review Board to void the assessments and refund all taxes paid to the cities for the years in question.
For the court ruling, see Brennan v. City of Willow Park, NO. 02-11-00265-CV (Tex. App. 2d Dist., Fort. Worth, June 21, 2012).

No comments: