Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in case of In Re: Appeal of Mt. Lebanon, Pa. From the 1976-77-78 Triennial Assessment of the Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review upon the Property at 131 Markham Drive, In the Municipality of Mt. Lebanon, Pa. James W. Stevenson, Jr. and Frances M. Stevenson, No. GD 77-02995.
John Michael Studeny, with him Guy L. Warman, Guy L. Warman and Associates, for James W. Stevenson, Jr. and Frances M. Stevenson.
James H. Roberts, with him Edwin L. Klett, Eckert, Seamans, Cherin & Mellot, for Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
John M. Silvestri, for the Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review.
President Judge Crumlish and Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers, Blatt, Craig and Williams, Jr. Judge MacPhail did not participate. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Mencer. Judge Williams, Jr. joins in this dissent.
[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 508]
This is a tax assessment appeal by James and Frances Stevenson (taxpayers) from the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. The municipality of Mt. Lebanon (Mt. Lebanon) and the Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review (Board) have cross-appealed, and the appeals have been consolidated here for argument and disposition.
The taxpayers are owners of and live on the property at 131 Markham Drive in Mt. Lebanon. In 1975, the tax assessor of Allegheny County fixed the assessment on the property at $24,000 for the triennial period 1976-77-78. The taxpayers appealed from this assessment to the Board, which, after a hearing, reduced the assessed valuation to $16,000. Mt. Lebanon then appealed the Board's action to the court of common pleas, where the taxpayers intervened. A trial was held, after which the court held that the fair market value of the property as of January 1, 1976, was $44,000 and that application of the assessment ratio of 50 percent in effect within the taxing district meant an assessment of $22,000.
As to the fair market value, the taxpayers argue that Mt. Lebanon failed to meet its burden because its
[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 509]
expert witness was not competent to testify as to the value of the subject property. This assertion is based on the fact that the witness' inspection was made more than one and one-half years after the valuation date and did not include an interior inspection. Our Supreme Court has stated, however, that:
[I]n all such questions of competency there is no fixed or absolute standard; the witness is required to have only such knowledge of the value of the property as could be reasonably expected in the particular case. . . .
Stevenson v. East Deer Township, 379 Pa. 103, 106, 108 A.2d 815, 816 (1954) (emphasis added). Here, the Board reached its assessment decision and Mt. Lebanon appealed therefrom in February 1977. The expert's inspection took place in the summer 1977, but it appears that this minor delay was occasioned by the taxpayer's refusal to allow an interior inspection of the subject property. Indeed, a motion by Mt. Lebanon to allow entry was denied by the court on June 17, 1977. Moreover, the taxpayers, after successfully opposing the motion to allow entry, are hardly in a position to attack the expert's valuation as not including an interior inspection. Finally, the taxpayer's own testimony supplied the missing details as to the interior and, in most instances, confirmed the expert's necessary speculation thereon. We believe, therefore, that the expert's ...