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Residents File Class Action Suit Over Property Assessment

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Some Allegheny County property owners who are upset they lost their assessment appeal are seeking to join a class-action lawsuit.

They say they paid hundreds of dollars to have their home appraised, only to have the appraisal rejected.

A lawsuit filed by Joseph Stivorich and 10 others contends that Allegheny County and its Property Assessment Appeals Board ignores the property values certified by state-approved real estate appraisers.

"I didn't accomplish anything by going through all the -- monies I spent, the trip into town, nothing. I have nothing to show for it, and I'm very disappointed," Stivorich told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

Stivorich spent nearly $200 for an appraisal -- that valued his Shaler home thirty-thousand dollars less than the county did -- but that value was ignored by hearing officers.

He's not alone.

"They made no changes at all. It was the same, which I was appalled," said Melaine Kachmar of Reserve.

After her home was reassessed from $47,000 to $127,000, Kachmar hired an appraiser.

"She appraised the property at $55,000, which I thought was fair," she said.

But with no other evidence to the contrary, the hearing office rejected the appraiser's value.

When homeowners are hit with higher-than-expected reassessment values on their homes, it's only natural that they would go out and hire a state-certified appraiser to get a real value for their home.

But what really irks them is that when hearing officials reject that number, they give no explanation of why.

"Sometimes they just pick a number out of the air from what we can tell because there doesn't seem to be any basis for the hearing officer to determine another value," noted attorney David Huntley, who filed the lawsuit.

The county says they have the right to reject an appraisal.

But Huntley says, ironically, many of the appraisers hired by property owners are recommended by the county.

"How is the citizenry going to have any confidence in the fairness of the system when this sort of thing goes on," he added.

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