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Ohio Property Tax Updates

UPDATED june 2020

Tenant Complaint Filing in Ohio

Siegel Jennings’ efforts to ensure fair property taxation for all Ohio taxpayers include an active role in the Ohio legislative process itself.  On May 12, 2020, Managing Partner Kieran Jennings appeared before the Ohio Ways and Means Committee in support of an amendment to Ohio Revised Code 5715.19(A)(1), which would permit a tenant who is wholly responsible for the property tax liability of a leased property to file a valuation complaint in its own name.

5715.19 regulates who may file a complaint against the valuation of real estate in Ohio.  In its current form, the language of the statute makes it necessary for a tenant to file a valuation complaint in the name of the owner of the property.  However, the owner of a property where a tenant pays 100% of the property taxes often has little interest in committing time to the valuation complaint process. The true litigant in these situations is the tenant.

The current law’s shortcomings are highlighted during the discovery process on appeal.  Once a decision is appealed to the next level of review, the parties can issue and compel discovery.  Often, discovery issued by opposing parties is directed to the owner and includes requests for information not available to the tenant.  These requests do not always seek information relevant to the fee simple as if unencumbered value of the real property.  Should a tenant receive discovery it cannot answer, such as a question about a sale or a recent financing appraisal, its entire litigation position may be jeopardized.  Unanswered discovery may result in motions to compel.  Motions to compel may include monetary penalties, and even more damaging, evidentiary restrictions that handicap the tenant’s ability to pursue its case.  A tenant who is 100% responsible or the property taxes, and is the true litigant, may be denied due process because it is not in the possession of the information requested.

Property owners with tenants 100% responsible for paying property tax bills often have limited knowledge of the day-to-day operations of their properties.  They are often unable to answer condition questions, may not have familiarity with the markets in which their properties are located and frequently cannot offer much information relevant to the fee simple value of their parcels.  They focus more on collecting rent, and frequently do so from locations outside the state or even the country.  Conversely, the tenant has boots on the ground, knows the bulk of information relevant to the property’s value and has a vested interest in all tax implications. 

Adopting the proposed amendment, as discussed by Mr. Jennings, would clarify language of the statute never intended to exclude a relevant party to the litigation.  It would provide the most interested party – the taxpayer – the ability to fully advocate for and defend its position.  It would ensure due process to tenants already most impacted by the fee simple value of the properties they rent.  Importantly, these changes would not serve to extinguish owner’s rights to participate in Ohio tax litigation matters for their properties but would serve to include the correct parties for properties where the responsibility for taxes is wholly the tenants, who have the most information and are the most impacted by the results.

Kristopher Nicoloff
Siegel Jennings Co. L.P.A.
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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