In October of 2022, the Colorado Court of Appeals, Division VII rendered an opinion in MLS Properties LLC v. Weld County Board of Equalization. While this case is the first to reach the Colorado Court of Appeals, there were, at the time, twelve similar claims pending throughout Colorado. In these cases, the most notable issue was how to interpret C.R.S. 39-1-104(11)(b)(I), which allows a taxpayer to have their property revalued by the county assessor to account for “unusual conditions” (the “Unusual Conditions Statute”).
In Colorado, each county assessor determines a property’s value for taxation purposes. This assessment takes place on January 1 of each odd-numbered year. A property’s level of value is the actual value of the property “for the one-and-one-half-year period immediately prior to July 1 immediately preceding the assessment date.” Thus, for a 2019 assessment, the data-gathering period for determining the actual value of the taxpayers’ properties was January 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018. Taxpayers pay taxes based on this value at the end of each of the subsequent years following the assessment. This means that, in general, while a taxpayer’s property value may have increased or decreased in value since its assessment, the taxpayer will continue to pay taxes on the assessed value until the next assessment year. The Unusual Conditions Statute, however, works as an exception to this general rule. It requires that an assessor decrease or increase a property’s value “for the years which intervene” assessment years if certain “unusual conditions exist.”
The Unusual Conditions Statute provides an exclusive list of conditions that qualify as unusual conditions including: (a) installation of an on-site improvement, (b) ending of the economic life of an improvement, (c) the addition to or remodeling of a structure, (d) a change in the use of the land, and (e) any new regulations restricting or increasing the use of the land, among others.
The taxpayers in MLS Properties argued that, despite the fact that their property had been assessed for the 2020 tax year, the COVID-19 pandemic (and associated government regulations), which occurred after January of 2020, should be considered as an unusual condition requiring that their properties be revalued. Weld County argued that the events of 2020 could not considered for the 2020 tax year because they occurred after January 1, 2020, the date 2020 taxes were assessed.
Siding with the taxpayers, the court held that “…as a matter of first impression…the assessor is required to consider unusual conditions that occur at any point during the even-numbered calendar year of the reassessment cycle, not just those that exist before January 1 of the even year.” Unless reversed, this holding means that taxpayers may petition the assessor to revalue their property for conditions that occur at any time within the period between assessments, not just before January 1 of the year in question.
This case was remanded to the District Court of Weld County and Weld County filed a subsequent petition for certiorari with the Colorado Supreme Court. On January 9, 2023, the Colorado Supreme Court issued an order holding the petition pending three similar cases originating in Broomfield, Jefferson, and Douglas County. As of June 7, 2023, the hold remains in effect.
The complete decision can be found here: MLS Properties v. Weld County Board of equalization.