Commercial property owners sue Philly, allege selective reassessments

Landlords in Center City Philadelphia are among those who filed a complaint against the city alleging the a reassessment of commercial properties announced March violted the state constitution.

Dozens of Philadelphia landlords on Thursday sued the city over a reassessment of commercial properties that was announced in March, alleging that the push to raise $118 million in property taxes next year was unconstitutional.

The Pennsylvania Constitution requires taxing authorities to treat all real estate uniformly, but in the case of the 2018 reassessments the city said it only reassessed 65,000 commercial and industrial properties, leaving residential property, which accounts for most of the city’s parcels, untouched.

In all, the city has more than 580,000 parcels.

The lawsuit was filed in Common Pleas Court by attorneys at Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg LLP on behalf of 59 landlords who own 75 commercial, industrial, and multifamily properties, and other parties.

Those landlords are on the hook for $14.9 million of the $118 million the city hope to raise from the “spot reassessments.”

The complaint, signed by Klehr Harvey partners Lawrence Arem and Carl S. Primavera, also says that the reassessments would increase use and occupancy tax burden on the plaintiffs and their tenants by $12.6 million.

The lawsuit asks the court to go back to the assessments that were in effect for this year.

A city spokeswoman said late Thursday that officials could not comment because they had not yet seen the complaint. She also said the reassessment announced in March also included some residential properties.