Illinois State Bar Association Files Suit Against the IDFPR

By: Mary Kathleen Fitzgerald, Attorney at Law                                                                       July 11, 2017

Earlier this year, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (“IDFPR”) shook the Illinois ad valorem tax world by filing complaints against two attorneys. The IDFPR alleged that these attorneys, while representing their clients’ interests in tax appeal cases, had engaged in unauthorized appraisal under the Real Estate Appraiser Licensing act of 2002 (see 225 ILCS 458/Art. 1). Now, the Illinois State Bar Association (“ISBA”) is fighting back.  On July 11, 2017, the ISBA filed suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against the IDFPR.

Each of the attorneys that are the subject of the IDFPR’s prosecutions were hired to represent their client’s interests in obtaining a fair and equitable assessment. In representing these interests, each took a different approach in the evidence that they submitted. 

Using the forms provided by the State of Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board (“PTAB”), the first attorney (“Attorney A”) submitted into evidence several uniformity comparables and several sales comparables. These sales comparables were outlined on the grids on the Complaint form provided by the PTAB, and supported with property record cards and information from Google Maps and Co-Star. Additionally, Attorney A submitted a legal brief in which he documented the similarities and differences between the subject property and the comparables. Within his brief, Attorney A discussed “unadjusted” and “adjusted” sale price per square foot.  To many attorneys, this is simply lingo for taking notice of the differences between the subject property and the comparables, and is an argument consistently made during tax appeal proceedings. Further, many administrative bodies encourage attorneys and taxpayers to take note of these differences by requiring that such detailed property characteristics be disclosed about the subject property and comparable properties. To many appraisers, however, making any adjustments and assigning a value are acts that only a licensed appraiser is permitted to do.

The second attorney (“Attorney B”), presented Income evidence to the DuPage County Board of Review on behalf of his client. Additionally, Attorney B submitted into evidence a legal brief, containing citations to pertinent caselaw and facts about the subject property.  Additionally, Attorney B included data from the surrounding markets from numerous publications to determine vacancy and collection loss, replacement reserves, and capitalization rate. Nowhere in the brief did Attorney B claim to be developing an appraisal, but rather purported to be representing his client’s interests.  To many attorneys, these are facts that are readily available to the general public, compiled for the purpose of representing the client’s interests.  To many appraisers, however, this compilation constitutes an analysis assigning a market value, thereby, an unauthorized appraisal.

In April, 2017, the IDFPR filed complaints against Attorneys A and B, challenging the activities described above, claiming that the attorneys committed unauthorized appraisal. The lawsuit filed by the ISBA against the IDPRF seeks to protect the interests of all Illinois attorneys engaged in the practice of property tax appeals, and ultimately, the interests of Illinois taxpayers.