Felicia Moore didn’t think much about it when her home was valued at $133,900 in 2016. The year before, that was about what she’d paid for it.
But now Moore, president of the Atlanta city council, is calling foul. Her neighbors, she learned, were valued at far less. And so Moore is one of five people who have joined a new lawsuit accusing Fulton County of sales chasing in valuing property, or raising the values of homes that were recently sold, but leaving the rest of the neighborhood alone.
“It happened to me,” Moore said. “They jacked it up to the purchase price.”
VIDEO: Previous coverage of Fulton tax issues
The suit, filed last week in Fulton County Superior Court, is one of at least two that seeks class action status to get refunds for Fulton residents who paid more in property taxes than their neighbors. An attorney for the first suit, Mitchell Graham, estimated counties, cities and school boards could be on the hook for more than $36 million.
Before Moore bought it, the 1,600-square-foot split-level Handy Drive home in the Collier Heights neighborhood, full of split-levels and ranches, was valued at $27,500. The next year, its value rose to $133,900 — just what she paid. The values of her neighbors’ properties didn’t rise.
Now, Moore said, her property value is close to $68,000.
“It’s a perfect example,” she said. “I just want to be treated fairly.”
Jonathan Palmer, an attorney in the case, said he doesn’t think there’s any question that the county’s board of assessors was at fault when it raised some property values in a neighborhood, but not others. One of the requirements under state law is that property be valued uniformly.
“I don’t see much defense,” he said. “They’ve acknowledged on the record that this happened. Hopefully, they’ll do the right thing and try to resolve this.”
Jessica Corbitt, a spokesperson for Fulton County, said she would not comment on pending litigation. Robb Pitts, the Fulton County chairman, said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit, but he expected the county would look into the allegations and respond accordingly.
“This clearly would suggest we need a thorough review to get to the facts,” he said. “My goal is to get it right, as right as possible. Slowly but surely, we’re trying to get there.”
In addition to Fulton, the suit names 14 Fulton County cities — South Fulton, the newest, hadn’t been formed yet when 2016 values came out. It says, in 2016, the county’s board of assessors “illegally and dramatically increased assessments on those homes sold during 2015 while leaving unchanged assessments for neighboring properties.”
That, the suit says, is a violation of the state constitution. It says those who paid more deserve to be reimbursed for their payment.
The county’s chief appraiser has already begun to study the issue, after a member of the board of assessors estimated more than 18,000 Fulton residents bought new homes in 2015, and had their values raised to their sales prices in 2016.