Hundreds of property owners sue five county assessors for pandemic relief

BusinessDen file photo by Blake Rubenstein at Guerilla Capturing.

Hundreds of property owners have sued five Colorado county assessors in recent weeks, arguing their property taxes should be reevaluated in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since late August, lawsuits have been filed against the assessors for Arapahoe, Denver, Eagle, Larimer and Weld counties.

The property owners are represented by Missouri attorney James P. Bick and Glen Gordon of Boulder’s Hutchinson Black and Cook. Bick told BusinessDen the plaintiffs are all clients of Missouri-based Joseph C. Sansone Co., which bills itself as “a leading provider of property tax solutions to medium and large companies.”

According to the lawsuits, the plaintiffs already appealed their property tax assessments to the Board of Equalization in the respective counties, which ruled against them.

Bick said county assessors determine property values every two years, and 2020 was not a year that new valuations were slated to be made.

The lawsuit, however, argues that state law allows for new assessments to be taken in an off year if “unusual conditions” exist.

“Both the decreased commercial activity overall due to the fear of the pandemic and the governmental restrictions on access and use of petitioners’ properties has caused and continues to cause decreases in the actual value of such properties,” the lawsuits state.

Denver Assessor Keith Erffmeyer did not respond to a request for comment.

There are 361 plaintiffs in the Denver lawsuit, 253 in the Arapahoe County lawsuit, and 78 plaintiffs in the Weld County lawsuit. There are three plaintiffs in the Eagle County lawsuit, and 97 plaintiffs representing 130 properties in the Larimer County lawsuit.

Below is part of the state law at the heart of the lawsuits. Phrasing in bold is highlighted in the lawsuits.

“The provisions of subsection (10.2) of this section are not intended to prevent the assessor from taking into account, in determining actual value for the years which intervene between changes in level of value, any unusual conditions in or related to any real property which would result in an increase or decrease in actual value. If any real property has not been assessed at its correct level of value, the assessor shall revalue such property for the intervening year so that the actual value of such property will be its correct level of value; however, the assessor shall not revalue such property above or below its correct level of value except as necessary to reflect the increase or decrease in actual value attributable to an unusual condition.”

State law goes on to define “unusual conditions” as, among other things, “new regulations restricting or increasing the use of the land” or “any detrimental acts of nature.”

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