Pandemic brings another chance for Ohioans to dispute property tax values

Commercial properties that lost income during pandemic are most likely to benefit from a special one-time COVID-19 Board of Revision complaint program, according to Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith.
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Commercial properties that lost income during pandemic are most likely to benefit from a special one-time COVID-19 Board of Revision complaint program, according to Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith.

County auditors: Commercial properties that lost income during pandemic most likely to benefit from one-time program.

A special one-time COVID-19 property value complaint program is most likely to benefit owners of commercial properties that lost income during the pandemic, according to Montgomery County’s auditor.

Ohio property owners can again challenge their property’s tax value by filing a complaint with their county’s board of revision now through Sept. 2 if they believe their property’s value was impacted by the pandemic.

The properties most likely to successfully receive a change in value from a COVID-19 complaint are those used to generate income if owners can show that the property’s income changed last year due to the pandemic, said Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith.

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“Many of our local businesses struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Keith said. “This new program is a great opportunity for commercial property owners to make a case for a reduction in their property value.”

A bill passed by the Ohio General Assembly in April created the program. To initiate a COVID-19 complaint, a property owner must submit a special complaint form to their county’s board of revision by the deadline. On the form, the property owner must explain how they believe the pandemic impacted their property’s value, or the complaint will be dismissed.

Greene County Auditor David Graham said some business sectors were hurt more than others by the pandemic and continue to struggle meeting fixed expenses like mortgages and insurance.

“The entertainment and travel industries were devastated by the loss of revenue, but the mom-and-pop shops were just as severely impacted when you consider the percentage of their income that was lost,” he said.

While homeowners can submit a COVID-19 complaint, it would be difficult for a residential property owner to show that their property’s value should be reduced due to the pandemic, Keith said.

“Given the state of the real estate market, we do not anticipate that residential properties will be successful in COVID-19 complaints. Home values have generally remained strong through the pandemic,” he said.

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When a Montgomery County property owner files a COVID-19 complaint, they will need to provide an opinion of their property’s value as it was during the pandemic on Oct. 1, 2020. After the complaint is submitted, the property owner will be scheduled for a hearing later this year by Zoom video conference or telephone, where they can make their case for a change in value.

Property owners should bring evidence to the hearing to show how the COVID-19 pandemic or a COVID-19 health order affected their property’s value, and they should be prepared to answer questions about any COVID-19 relief funds they received.

According to Keith, some examples of evidence to bring to a hearing include:

--- An appraisal from around Oct. 1, 2020 that uses the income approach and discusses how the pandemic affected the property’s value

--- Income and expense reports comparing 2020 with prior years, which could include changes in collected rent

--- Documentation or testimony of the costs and limitations of complying with COVID-19 health orders

--- Information submitted as part of business interruption insurance claims or COVID-19 relief or grant programs through the Small Business Administration or local governments

If a COVID-19 complaint is successful, and the Board of Revision issues a change in value, that change will affect property taxes payable in 2021. If a property owner who has already paid their 2021 taxes receives a value reduction this way, they will be issued a tax refund, according to the Auditor’s Office.

Normally, property owners can only challenge their property’s value once per three-year property value update cycle. But a property owner can submit a COVID-19 complaint even if they have already filed a normal challenge to their property’s value.

Keith said members of the County Auditor’s Association of Ohio had hoped the COVID-19 complaint process would have been approved earlier in the year as an emergency measure so cases could have been channeled through the normal hearing procedure sooner.

“It adds some administrative burden to the process,” he said.

Montgomery County seated a second Board of Revision earlier this year to handle the surge of cases stemming from a 2020 property reappraisal that resulted in 82% of the county’s 210,776 residential parcels going up in value — 62% of them rising by double-digit percentages, according to the auditor’s office.

So far this year, Montgomery County has scheduled hearings on 3,801 parcels with 2,841 already heard and decisions made on 1,694 parcels, according to the Auditor’s Office.

With unanimous support in both Statehouse chambers, the bill containing the COVID-19 complaint provision also included a property tax exemption for nonprofits that own supportive housing for people diagnosed with mental illness or substance use disorders.

For Montgomery County property owners, more information and the form can be found online at mc-bor.org. Greene County property owners can contact the Auditor’s Office online at www.greenecountyohio.gov/366/Auditor.