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Illinois Sues Lawyers

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PL1957

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Certified General Appraiser
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Illinois

Gobears81

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Certified General Appraiser
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Illinois
I saw in the Idfpr disciplinary report that a lawyer was fined this month. I've seen these appeals and can understand what the issue is.
 
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hastalavista

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California
I saw in the Idfpr disciplinary report that a lawyer was fined this month. I've seen these appeals and can understand what the issue is.
On the surface, I would tend to agree with the lawyers. In a government action (administrative, civil, quasi-official) vs. a citizen, I would think the citizen should have the right to be represented by an attorney if the citizen chooses to do so; the lawyer can act on behalf of the citizen and, in this case just like the citizen, can provide data and make value arguments for that citizen.

Is there anything in the reports you've seen that you believe creates a strong argument against the lawyers?
 

Gobears81

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Illinois
On the surface, I would tend to agree with the lawyers. In a government action (administrative, civil, quasi-official) vs. a citizen, I would think the citizen should have the right to be represented by an attorney if the citizen chooses to do so; the lawyer can act on behalf of the citizen and, in this case just like the citizen, can provide data and make value arguments for that citizen.

Is there anything in the reports you've seen that you believe creates a strong argument against the lawyers?
Yes, although I have reasons for not fully fleshing out a response to that question. But, even the most simplistic appeal would constitute filling out a form which has comparable sales and their respective characteristics. It does not have an adjustment grid, but does list a "comparable sales grid". I do not know the ins and outs of attorney regulations in the same way that I know appraisers regulations, of course, but I believe that the commercial aspect is a game changer. We can all reshingle our roof, sell our own house, or prepare our own taxes, but if we hire someone to do that, they need to have the appropriate credentials or licenses. Thus, there are no issues with the homeowner approaching the assessor, due to trying to figure out how their property can be assessed so much higher than what the identical property next door just sold for. There's even no issues with them researching comparable sales for the simple reason that they are not doing it for hire. If an appraiser fills out that form and lists a value which they believe it should be re-assessed to, I would regard it as an appraisal-or at least an appraisal service- no matter how deficient it is for USPAP purposes. I view the attorney's "scope of work" in these cases to fill out the appropriate forms and move the process along as it may...but, they cannot do something that they are not licensed for. Even the most simplistic form would require researching the comparable sales for the client, making assumptions regarding the highest and best use, determining an appropriate unit of comparison, etc. When they are compensated based on reduction in taxes, they might not be researching the "best" comparable sales, but the lowest. Even if appraisers don't have a strong moral compass to adhere to, the fear of discipline or losing one's license might keep them from selecting some of these sales, but attorneys are performing a valuation service outside of the USPAP umbrella. I remember being told about a tax appeal hearing in which the appellant's attorney brought in an "expert witness" which was a commercial broker in that town, and he offered his opinion of what the property was worth. The other side blew their top when that happened and it got shut down. How can that be cut off, yet an attorney performing more complex valuations than simply listing three comparable sales can fly?
 
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hastalavista

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Thanks, Gobears, for your response!

I disagree and the disagreement is based on a fundamental concept: A citizen has the right to have legal representation when s/he is challenging the state (or any government jurisdiction of the state).

An appraiser, if engaged for a tax appeal assignment, is required to follow the USPAP. All parties (the taxpayer, the state, the appeals board) have an expectation of impartiality, objectivity, and independence of the appraiser. Along with that is the expectation that the valuation will be done in a competent manner so that the results are credible. This is a given. All the things that you cite (H&BU, comparable selection, etc., etc.) are assumed to be embedded in the appraiser's analysis. The appraiser is not the taxpayer's advocate. The appraiser can only advocate for the appraised value.

None of the things you bring up in regards to an appraisal (H&BU analysis, etc., ) are assumed to be embedded in the taxpayer's analysis if s/he does it himself. Taxpayers have the right to challenge their assessment and bring evidence that they believe assists in their challenge. When a taxpayer engages an appraiser, the taxpayer is using the appraiser's valuation, with all the things implied in the development and reporting of that valuation, to advocate for their position. It is the all "the things implied" which require us appraisers to follow the USPAP.

When a taxpayer engages an attorney to represent him/herself, there is no explicit or implicit expectation of USPAP compliance or even sound valuation methodology. An attorney is simply representing the taxpayer (which an appraiser does not do) and the attorney is making the taxpayer's arguments on the taxpayer's behalf. Their valuation methods (assuming they do not complete an appraisal following the USPAP) are not held to the USPAP standards. They are held to the same standard that the taxpayer is held to... because the attorney is the taxpayer's representative.

To deny the ability of a citizen to hire an attorney in situations where the citizen is challenging the state, and have the attorney represent their interests to the same level that the citizen could do without such representation does not seem equitable to me. The tax appeal process can be overwhelming for many. A citizen should have the right to hire an attorney to represent the citizen in his/her challenge. That representation, by an attorney, should allow for the same basic rights (hearing rights, in a tax appeal case) that the citizen has without the attorney.

In California, taxpayers can be represented by a tax agent. The requirements of a tax agent are to register with the Secretary of State; there are some other minimum requirements (such as no criminal convictions in the last 10-years, etc.) but there are no special/specific valuation-education/expertise requirements. Anyone with a clear criminal record and no disbarment (if an attorney) can be at tax agent.
The tax agent then represents the taxpayer to the same valuation standards that the taxpayer would be held to . The tax agent doesn't have to follow the USPAP. While most of the tax agents I know (and I know a few) do not willfully misrepresent the value of a property in a hearing, they will certainly advocate for the value-point that best serves their client and provide data to support that argument... just as a taxpayer would do. An appraiser cannot do this.

In my opinion, this isn't about lawyers acting as appraisers or completing an appraisal in the USPAP-sense of what an appraisal is. They are not doing that (unless they agree to do that and make that disclosure).
This is about the right of a citizen to hire an attorney and represent that citizen in a proceeding against the state. The attorney, by virtue of his license to practice, has a fiduciary duty to his/her client (the taxpayer) as well as the additional requirements that are consistent with his/her license to practice law. The citizen is protected and represented in the challenge to the state. The attorney is not acting as an appraiser; the attorney is acting as the client's representative in the challenge against the state. The attorney should have the same ability as the citizen does in providing documents/evidence in that challenge against the state. I see it as a fundamental right of the citizen to have this ability in its challenge against the state.

Hopefully, when the matter is resolved, someone will post that conclusion here in this thread.
 

gregb

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Denis, would your reasoning apply to a lawyer's use of comparable sales and appraisal methods in a non-tax payer situation, say a suit against a title company, broker or investor? Would a citizen have the same right to hire an attorney to act as the client's representative when a state agency is not involved, where the attorney uses appraisal methods to further the clients interest in a civil suite against a non-state entity? :)
 
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hastalavista

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Certified General Appraiser
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California
Denis, would your reasoning apply to a lawyer's use of comparable sale and appraisal methods in a non-tax payer situation, say a suit against a title company, broker or investor? Would a citizen have the same right to hire an attorney to act as the client's representative when a state agency is not involved? :)

Just to be clear, I read the question to be, can the citizen use an attorney to for a value-related issue- not just as representation in the issue, but specific to a value issue?

My answer is, "yes" but they would be fools to do do so; their evidence is likely going to be held in less regard than the other side's independent expert (an appraiser, I presume) by the trier of fact.
So, an attorney could try to present evidence in the case you describe, but weighted against the evidence of the opposing side (which, let's assume will be an appraiser), it isn't going to go to far.

Remember, in a tax appeals case, the citizen has the right to present its evidence and if presented by the citizen, that evidence has no special duty or requirements (doesn't mean it won't get thrown out, it just means that the citizen isn't held to any 3rd party expertise/objectivity standard).
The assessor's appraiser is expected to present its evidence (valuation) that is fair and equitable. It is supposed to be an impartial expert at the valuation.

An attorney, in a tax appeal, is simply the citizen by representation. That is a role that an appraiser cannot assume (but it is a role that a tax agent arguing a tax appeals case in California can assume).
 

Terrel L. Shields

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Arkansas
As pointed out this is public information. Why would a lawyer NOT use such information. IL is desperate for cash. Their system seems to decidedly stacked against homeowners forced to appeal before people with skin in the game - professional appraisers (assessors) and a board composed of public employees. If the form ALLOWS (requires?) the homeowner to provide three sales??? then it is only fair that the HO be allowed any professional assistance they can afford. There is no worse tax than property tax. It is a high tax imposed largely by an AVM ...the very same sort of tool decried by appraisers as inaccurate. I served on the board of equalization long enough to be thoroughly sickened by the "mass appraisal" of industrials and farms based solely on one or two sales, or the spreadsheets of homes sales where they expanded sales on a section by section basis without considering the fact these mile long jumps crossed school districts, neighborhoods, or market areas.

I watched dozens of unskilled residents appeal their taxes, some elderly and seeing doubled taxes,not understanding why taxes shot up, let alone being able to understand the assessor field card sent them, face a board and only being able to ask "Why did my taxes double?" only to be told, "because your property hasn't been reassessed in 12 years, claim denied." And property tax rate increases are hard to get passed now because voters generously passed rate hikes in lieu of higher valuations only to see this huge increase. Thanks, Gov. Bill Clinton. Now regardless the valuation, no individual tax increase can exceed 5% annual...thanks, Gov. Mike Huckabee.
 

Terrel L. Shields

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Arkansas
their evidence is likely going to be held in less regard than the other side's independent expert (an appraiser,
My experience on the board led me to believe by a wide majority the members of the B o Eq believed appraisers were biased and only reporting results favorable to the homeowner. Mind you two of the nine were former brokers from California, one a retired MAI from Las Vegas, and the rest were retired assessor appraisers except me, the lone certified appraiser.
 
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