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Clarence Paul Roberts v. City of Newark


September 19, 2011


On appeal from the Tax Court of New Jersey, Docket No. 6386-2005.

Per curiam.


Submitted September 6, 2011

Before Judges Alvarez and Nugent.

Plaintiff Clarence Paul Roberts appeals from the August 7, 2009 order of the Tax Court that affirmed the Essex County Board of Taxation judgment regarding the 2005 assessment on his residence in the City of Newark. We affirm.

In 2002, defendant City of Newark mistakenly assessed plaintiff's single family residence as a three-family dwelling valued at $101,200. Although defendant subsequently corrected its error and lowered the assessment to $99,800, plaintiff remained dissatisfied and appealed to the Essex County Board of Taxation, which reduced the assessment to $89,800. The reduced assessment remained in place for the 2005 tax year. Plaintiff appealed the 2005 assessment to the Essex County Board of Taxation. On June 15, 2005, the Board entered a judgment affirming the assessment. Plaintiff appealed to the Tax Court, where his pro se complaint was dismissed with prejudice for failing to comply with a management order that required him to provide an appraisal report or a list of comparable sales. Plaintiff appealed, and we vacated the dismissal and reinstated the Tax Court appeal. Roberts v. City of Newark, No. A-0215-06 (App. Div. December 18, 2007).

Defendant moved for reconsideration, which we denied. Roberts v. City of Newark, No. A-0215-06 (App. Div. February 20, 2009). We remanded to the Tax Court and directed plaintiff to file with the Tax Court, the defendant's attorney, and the defendant, a list of comparable sales. Id., slip op. at 4. We also explained what was to be included in the list of comparables. Ibid.

The Tax Court affirmed the $89,800 assessment after a remand hearing. In its comprehensive written decision, the court provided a detailed analysis of plaintiff's evidence of comparable sales, emphasizing the absence of adjustments to account for the differences between the comparables and plaintiff's property, or for the remoteness of their sale dates. Roberts v. City of Newark, No. 6386-2005 (Tax July 24, 2009) (slip op. at 6-12). The court also explained:

[With] no knowledge of the pertinent characteristics of the homes that were the subject of the comparable sales, details of the sales transaction, or knowledge of the condition of the properties at the time of the comparable sales, plaintiff could offer no reasoned analysis comparing those homes to his residence. [Id., slip op. at 12-13.]

Although defendant produced the testimony of its Chief Assistant Tax Assessor to refute plaintiff's evidence of comparables, the court concluded that even if it did not consider defendant's evidence, "the record still would contain no evidence upon which to determine the value of plaintiff's home and the court's decision would remain unchanged." Id., slip op. at 15.

Plaintiff contends that his single family residence should be assessed at one-third of the assessment that was based on the mistaken premise that the home was a three-family residence. Plaintiff also argues that the matter must be remanded because defendant did not provide him in advance with the documents defendant relied upon to refute his comparables.

Our review of the Tax Court's factual findings is limited. We will only disturb those findings if they are arbitrary or lack the support of substantial evidence in the record. Glenpointe Assocs. v. Twp. of Teaneck, 241 N.J. Super. 37, 46 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 122 N.J. 391 (1990).

A property tax assessment is presumed to be valid, and the taxpayer has the burden of proving that it is not. Pantasote Co. v. City of Passaic, 100 N.J. 408, 412-13 (1985). "[T]he presumption is not simply an evidentiary presumption serving only as a mechanism to allocate the burden of proof. It is, rather, a construct that expresses the view that in tax matters it is to be presumed that governmental authority has been exercised correctly and in accordance with law." Id. at 413.

We affirm substantially for the reasons explained by the Tax Court in its letter opinion of July 24, 2009. Plaintiff's arguments on appeal do not merit further discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).



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