Tiburon owner wins battle over $4 million valuation

A Tiburon homeowner has won a property tax cut following a lawsuit that pitted the county assessor against the Marin County Assessment Appeal Board.

Ryan Bedrosian bought his three-bedroom home at 1868 Mountain View Drive for $4 million in 2017. The county assessor’s office — following the “deemed purchase price” standard — appraised the property at 4 million dollars for tax purposes.

Bedrosian appealed the amount in 2018, saying he overpaid for the property. Bedrosian’s realtor, who was also acting as the seller’s agent, “rushed” him to submit a no-contingencies offer $400,000 above the list price, according to a filing by his attorney, Phillip Jaret.

Later, Bedrosian discovered “substantial latent defects covered by the seller with paint and caulking,” Jaret wrote. Problems included water intrusion, a condition that showed up during winter rains, according to the filing.

In addition to the alleged defects, Bedrosian said his taxes should be lower because the appraised value of the property fell the year after it was purchased.

The Marin County Assessment Appeal Board ruled in favor of Bedrosian in 2020, saying the property should be assessed at $3,656,500. Board members were Troy Van Dongen, a tax attorney; Dirck Brinckerhoff, commercial real estate broker; and Corina Rollins, real estate appraiser.

The assessor’s office filed a lawsuit in Marin County Superior Court, asking a judge to overturn the council’s decision. In a February 25 decision, Judge James Chou sided with the appeal board.

The decision centered on the burden of proof. Chou said the appeal board correctly asked Bedrosian to demonstrate why the “purchase price presumption” should not apply. The council determined that Bedrosian had discharged his burden.

Likewise, Chou wrote, the council correctly placed the burden of proof on the assessor’s desk to refute Bedrosian’s claim that the property’s value had declined. The jury found that the evaluator had failed to demonstrate the contrary.

The decision saves Bedrosian about $4,000 a year in taxes, said Shelly Scott, the county assessor-recorder-clerk.

Scott said his administration had challenged a council decision only once before. She said the purpose of the Bedrosian litigation was to clarify state guidelines for property assessments.

“We are satisfied with the decision insofar as the court confirmed that the purchase price presumption should be applied when determining fair market value,” she said. “The appraiser will continue to apply the presumption of purchase price during appraisals, as required by California law.”

Scott and Jaret said the decision is specific to the Bedrosian case and does not have broader implications for property tax collection in Marin.

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