Ohio and Kentucky Property Tax: Is COVID-19 relevant to property valuation challenges this year?

As part of our property valuation work, we have received calls from property owners in Ohio and Kentucky asking how the affects of COVID-19 will come into play in property valuation challenges brought this year.

Effective (or target) date of valuation challenge

As an initial matter it is important to know the valuation date at issue. In Ohio, the “tax lien date” is always one year in arrears, so a challenge that is brought this year is actually challenging the value of the property as of January 1, 2019. In Kentucky, the tax lien date is current, so a challenge filed this year is challenging the value as of January 1, 2020.

Timing of when to file a valuation challenge

Because the valuation is as a specific point in time, it is important to consider what was affecting value on that specific date. When hiring an appraiser for a BOR (Board of Revision) in Ohio, or PVA (Property Valuation Administrator) in Kentucky, the appraiser gives her opinion of value as of the tax lien date. So, for instance, if the overall market takes a tumble in March, that would typically not affect the value of a property two month’s earlier. But may suggest that the values were already heading downward in January.

Thus, a hotel or restaurant property owner contemplating a challenge in Kentucky based upon the drop in income due to the COVID-19 virus and the stay at home order, is unlikely to see much weight given to the effects of COVID-19. That said, comparable sales in the past few months (which may reflect the effect of COVID-19 on the real estate market may have some evidentiary weight worth presenting to the PVA.

A challenge next year may be more successful than this year in Kentucky.

For Ohio property owners, COVID-19 is less relevant this year. This is because, as discussed above, the relevant tax lien date is January 1, 2019. As with Kentucky challenges, comparable sales in the past few months can be used as evidence of the value as of January 1, 2019, although the BOR will likely give such sales less weight than sales closer to the tax lien date.

In Ohio, only one challenge per three-year cycle

In Ohio the county auditors revalue properties every three years (the “triennial”). For Hamilton and Clermont Counties 2019 is the last year of the triennial. A new triennial will start with the 1/1/2020 value determined later this year by the County Auditors. In Warren County, the last year of the triennial is 2020 – meaning that the Warren County Auditor will determine a new three year value as of 1/1/2021.  As a general rule, property owners may only file one challenge per triennial (R.C. 5715.19(A)(2)). So a cautious approach me be the better approach.

If you’ve already filed a challenge in Ohio, it is worth a shot to raise the issue of COVID-19, but as discussed above, it may fall on deaf ears. For Hamilton County property owners, the best bet may be to wait until 2022 to file for the value as of 1/1/2021. For Warren County property owners, a better approach may be to file next year challenging the value as of 1/1/2020 (this may be a futile effort), but you will be able to refile again in 2022.

Legislative change?

The Ohio legislature is working on multiple bills in rapid succession to stabilize the economy and prevent economic hardship to businesses and property owners.  Perhaps this will be one area where the inequity of January 1 versus April 1, 2020 property values will be addressed.

Thus, in light of the spate of COVID-19 relief acts, it would not be surprising to see the state legislatures act to provide property tax relief with a 4/1/20 or 5/1/20 effective or target date for 2021 valuation challenges.  We will keep an eye on the legislatures in Ohio and Kentucky and update our blog as we learn more.

Conclusion

Ultimately, property owners should temper their expectations that the BOR or PVA will recognize the effects of COVID-19 on property values in this year’s challenges.

Hopefully the financial effects of COVID-19 will not be long-lasting. But if they are, it may be a better basis for a valuation challenge in 2021 or even 2022 (for an effective date after the COVID crisis broke out).

Contact Christopher P. Finney  (513-943-6655) for assistance with your property valuation challenge.

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