Phillis v. County of HumboldtAnnotate this Case
In 2013, Phillips purchased Humboldt County property at a public trustee sale for $153.806.41, comprising two 80-acre parcels, two miles from a public road. The terrain is mostly steep and wooded. There is a 1,508-square-foot, three-bedroom manufactured home on a permanent foundation that uses a solar generator system, a spring-fed water system, and a septic system. The property was previously purchased in 2000 for $125,000; in 2001 the modular home was added, costing $85,000. Phillips filed multiple applications challenging the prior owner’s $469,976 assessment.
The Assessor reappraised the property at $415,000. Phillips cited Revenue and Taxation Code 110(b): the purchase price of real property is rebuttably presumed to be its “fair market value” “if the terms of the transaction were negotiated at arms-length between a knowledgeable transferor and transferee neither of which could take advantage of exigencies. Phillips argued that the price he paid for the property had to be treated as its taxable value and challenged the Assessor’s comparable sales analysis, The Board determined the value to be $250,000. Phillips filed a tax refund action. On remand, the Board found the 2013 fair market value was $335,000.
The court of appeal affirmed that the property was not obtained in an open market transaction, there was substantial evidence to support the Board’s conclusion as to its assessed value of the property, and Phillips’ due process rights were not violated. A foreclosure sale is by nature not an open market transaction supporting the application of the section 110 presumption; even where that presumption applies, it may be rebutted by evidence that the property's fair market value is otherwise.