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Appraisals may be properly excluded as evidence in hearings regarding property valuation if good faith efforts are not made to comply with rules of procedure.

Sheila Brandner owned property in Anchorage, Alaska. At Brandner's request, the Municipality of Anchorage (Municipality) assessor inspected the property in June 2011. In conducting the inspection, the assessor noted that the home had some defects and gave it a fair rating. The property was assessed to be worth $499,400. Brandner appealed the assessment, claiming the assessment overvalued her property "by a long shot."

Brandner's appeal was considered at a hearing before the Anchorage Municipal Board of Equalization (Board). To prepare for the hearing, Brandner obtained an independent appraisal and several repair estimates from local contractors. At the hearing, the Board did not permit Brandner to introduce copies of the appraisal or the estimates as she had failed to submit them as evidence by the required deadline. However, Brandner was allowed to testily about the substance of the documents, as was the independent appraiser she had hired. Brandner's appraiser valued the property at $385,000, and the contractors estimated that the repairs would cost between $120,000 and $140,000. The Municipality's appraiser testified that the property was worth $560,700. The Board adopted the base value of the appraiser ($567,000) and the repair work cost estimates from Brandner's contractors ($ 140,000). The Board thus concluded the property was worth $427,000 before repairs. Brandner appealed to the superior court and then to the Supreme Court of Alaska after the superior court affirmed the Board's decision.

On appeal, Brandner argued that she was wrongfully prevented from presenting evidence at the hearing concerning fair market value of her property through the appraisal she obtained. The court started by looking at the Anchorage Municipal Code (Code). The Code requires that, for documents to be submitted as evidence at a hearing, they must be filed with the assessor within 45 days of the mailing of the tax assessment to the property owner. The court took into consideration the fact Brandner was a pro se litigant and so certain court procedures must be relaxed in light of that fact, but held absent a good faith attempt to comply with the rules of procedure, a pro se litigant may be denied this leniency. The record indicated Brandner waited until after the 45-day deadline to even obtain the repair estimates and appraisal because she believed such evidence might be unnecessary. As a result, the court found Brandner did not make a good faith effort to comply with the rules, and the Board's refusal to admit the documents as evidence was not an abuse of its discretion.

Brandner v. Municipality of Anchorage

Supreme Court of Alaska

June 13, 2014

327 P.3d 200

by Alan M. Weinberger, JD, and Megan Murphy, JD

Alan M. Weinberger, JD, has been a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law since 1987. Previously, he practiced for twelve years with law firms in Detroit and Washington, DC, where he specialized in real estate transfer, finance, and development. Weinberger graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School. He has published articles and chapters in the fields of real estate finance, partnership, and property law. He Is coauthor of Property Law Cases, Materials and Problems, 3rd ed., published by West Group. His most recent article, "Tools of Ignorance: An Appraisal of Deficiency Judgments," was published in the Spring 2015 issue of the Washington and Lee Law Review. Contact:

Megan Murphy, JD, is an attorney in the Denver law firm of Hackstaff & Snow, LLC. She graduated magna cum laude from Saint Louis University School of Law where she was the Mel Friedman Fellow in Real Estate Law.
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Title Annotation:Recent Court Decisions
Publication:Appraisal Journal
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Mar 22, 2015
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