Lay Testimony in Property Tax Appeals
Property Tax Appeal

“Because a tax appeal is heard de novo [Latin “anew”], a trial court judge is privileged to adopt whatever testimony he reasonably believes to be credible.”  Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Board of Tax Review, 241 Conn. 749, 755-56, 699 A.2d 81 (1997).

Sometimes considered to be a ‘battle of the experts,’ tax appeal litigation typically involves a simultaneous exchange of appraisals and disclosure of expert witnesses.  Expert testimony by a certified appraiser is a key element to proving the town’s overvaluation of one’s property.  However, did you know that lay testimony can sometimes play an important role in tax appeal litigation? 

The property owner or a property manager might be in a good position to testify regarding the condition of the property.  In the case Grolier v. City of Danbury, 82 Conn. App. 77, 842 A.2d 621 (2004), three different employees from an owner-occupied building testified as to the conditions at the property.  If someone works at a building every day, they can become very familiar with the building’s issues and deferred maintenance.  While an expert appraiser may be more knowledgeable about how the condition of a building impacts its value, the appraiser’s inspection of the building may last no longer than a few hours.  By contrast, a property owner or manager may deal with the property condition daily on a range of issues ranging from dealing with a leaking roof, getting quotes for new siding, or negotiating with prospective rental tenants who find another property, in better condition.

Lay testimony may also be used for proving or disproving some condition of a sale.  Several conditions must be satisfied for a sale to be appropriately used within a comparative sales analysis. Among those conditions are adequate exposure to the market and an arm’s length transaction (unrelated and unaffiliated parties).  In the case Nolasco v. Town of Madison, CV-92-0318894 Conn Sup. J.D. New Haven (1995), the defendant produced an owner of a property to testify use of the sale was appropriate as that sale was an arm’s length transaction. 

Did you know that a property owner can testify to their property’s value?  Yes.  It is well settled law.  See Misisco v. LaMaita, 150 Conn.680 (1963).  This same holds true for an owner of personal property.  Saporiti v. Austin A Chambers Co., 134 Conn. 476, 479, 58 A.2d 387 (1948).

And while expert testimony is important to proving overvaluation, experts don’t need to have all the fun!

Please feel free to contact any members of Pullman's Property Tax and Valuation Practice (Laura CardilloBrian McCannElliott PollackGreg Servodidio or Michael Marafito) with any property tax questions that you may have.   

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Alerts, commentary, and insights from the attorneys of Pullman & Comley’s Property Tax and Valuation practice with timely information for businesses, nonprofits and individuals in commercial property tax appeals and eminent domain matters.

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