Douglass Vill. Residents Grp. v. Berks Cnty. Bd. of Assessment Appeals, PICS Case No. 14-0172 (Pa. Commw. Jan. 27, 2014) Leavitt, J. (7 pages).

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TAXATION

Taxation • Real Property • Mobile Home • Appurtenances

Douglass Vill. Residents Grp. v. Berks Cnty. Bd. of Assessment Appeals, PICS Case No. 14-0172 (Pa. Commw. Jan. 27, 2014) Leavitt, J. (7 pages).

Where appurtenances such as garages or patio decks are affixed to the ground and are not easily transportable with the mobile homes they are attached to, property taxes for such appurtenances should be assessed against the landowner and not the owners of the mobile homes. Affirmed.

Douglass Village was a mobile home community owned and operated by Douglass Village, LLC. Residents of Douglass Village, members of plaintiff Douglass Village Residents Group, purchased mobile homes from Douglass Village, and leased plots on an annual basis on which the mobile homes where placed. Residents also purchased garages and (optionally) patio decks, which were constructed by Douglass Village, who constructed them on cement slabs or piers; neither the garages nor the decks could be moved without being completely dismantled.

Berks County Board of Assessments assessed property taxes for the garages and deck upon the homeowners, which was challenged by plaintiff. After its challenge was denied, plaintiff appealed to the Berks County Court of Common Pleas, which ruled that the garages and decks were fixtures, taxable as realty, and that the assessment should be borne by defendant, noting that §8821 of the Consolidated County Assessment Law defined mobile homes as the home itself, not including add-ons, and assessed the land on which mobile homes sit separate from the home (which is assessed to the homeowner).

Moreover, the trial court concluded that, based on the statutory definition, a mobile home must be capable of being transported. The trial court also noted the precedent set by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Tech One Associates v. Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review of Allegheny County, which held that the mere fact that a lessee paid for and owned improvements on land did not mean that the improvements were taxable to lessee. The trial court applied Tech One in the instant case to hold that assessment law required improvements to land to be taxed to the landowner as part of the land, regardless of ownership of the improvements.

The instant court agreed with the conclusions of the trial court, finding that the assessment law authorized county tax assessors to asses mobile homes, but that no reference was made in the statute to additions such as decks or garages; in order for additions to be assessed with the home, they must be considered part of the home, which the decks and garages in the present case, not being permanently attached and requiring complete dismantlement for transport, were not.