Updated September 2017
New Jersey Tax Court’s Increasingly Heightened “Why and Wherefore” Standard
A recent unpublished New Jersey Tax Court opinion typifies the Tax Court’s trend towards requiring heightened support for evidence of property value. In Benedetto v. Little Ferry Borough, the Tax Court reduced the assessments under appeal subsequent to a lengthy scrutiny of the appraisers' reports/testimony. The Tax Court explained that “the court is faced with the responsibility of applying its own judgment to the evidence presented to determine the true market value of the subject property.” Benedetto v. Little Ferry Borough, No. 006900-2014, 2017 N.J. Tax Unpub. LEXIS 53, at 31 (N.J. Tax Ct. Sept. 6, 2017). For example, the Tax Court rejected plaintiff’s appraiser’s 5% downward market condition/time adjustment to three comparable rentals because “plaintiff's appraiser offered no objective market data or surveys to support his 5% adjustment.” Id at 28. Although the Tax Court acknowledged that the country experienced an economic recession during such time, accounting “for ‘rapidly declining’ rental rates between [January 2009] and the October 1, 2009 valuation date” was insufficient support for the adjustment. Id.
Additionally, the Tax Court rejected four of the defendant’s comparable sales as accurate evidence of true market value. The Tax Court explained that “defendant's appraiser failed to offer any data or credible market evidence disclosing that a 7.5% downward supportive office adjustment is justified for a warehouse with 20% supportive office… yet no downward supportive adjustment is warranted for a warehouse with 18% supportive office.” Id at 61.
In rejecting the above and other adjustments/comparables, the Tax Court explained that under N.J.R.E. 703, an expert must provide the “why and wherefore” of his or her opinion – an expert’s testimony must be rooted in facts, science, data, or the opinions of other experts. Id at 59.
Although in Benedetto the Tax Court reduced the assessments after its own value analysis, other recent Tax Court cases have simply affirmed assessments under a similar rationale. For example, in VBV Realty, LLC v. Scotch Plains Twp., the Tax Court affirmed the assessments under appeal because neither appraiser adequately justified and supported value opinions upon sufficient information and data. The Tax Court accorded no weight to plaintiff's appraiser's sales comparison approach or income capitalization approach because he did not verify or consult with any individual involved in the transactions/sales of property used to value the subject property. Furthermore, the Tax Court was unable to determine fair market value for the subject property based upon defendant's appraiser's value opinion because he did not provide a base of data to support the value adjustment. VBV Realty, LLC v. Scotch Plains Township, 29 N.J. Tax 548, 553 (N.J. Tax Ct. 2017).
Gregory S. Schaffer, Esq.
Garippa, Lotz & Giannuario
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)