P. J., COOMER and MARKLE, JJ.
DeKalb County Board of Tax Assessors ("the Board")
appeals from the trial court's grant of summary judgment
in favor of Astor Atl, LLC ("Astor") in this
dispute over the fair market value of properties Astor
purchased in foreclosure sales. For the reasons that follow,
review the grant of summary judgment de novo, viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant.
Fair v. C V Underground, LLC, 340 Ga.App.
790 (798 S.E.2d 358) (2017).
relevant facts are undisputed. In 2015, Astor purchased three
DeKalb County properties in separate foreclosure sales. Astor
paid $92, 000 for the first property, located on Hill Creek
Cove; $86, 000 for the second property, located on Royal
Springs Court; and $103, 566 for the third property, located
on Smithfield Trail.
2016, the Board assessed the property taxes for each property
in excess of Astor's purchase price. Specifically, the
Hill Creek Cove property was assessed at a fair market value
of $112, 800; the Royal Springs Court property was assessed
at a fair market value of $109, 900; and the Smithfield Trail
property was assessed at a fair market value of $128, 400.
Astor appealed the tax assessments to the DeKalb County Board
of Equalization, which upheld each assessment. Astor then
appealed to the superior court.
the trial court, Astor moved for summary judgment, arguing
that it had purchased the properties during an arm's
length bona fide sale, and therefore the maximum allowable
fair market value for 2016 tax assessment purposes was
limited to the 2015 purchase price under OCGA § 48-5-2
(3). The Board opposed the motion, arguing that a foreclosure
sale did not qualify under the statute as an arm's
length, bona fide sale as defined in OCGA § 48-5-2 (.1),
and that it had appraised the property in conformity with its
rules using the sales comparison approach.
trial court granted Astor's summary judgment motion,
finding that the foreclosure sales were arm's length bona
fide sales. As such, the fair market values for the 2016 tax
year were limited to the purchase prices Astor had paid.
Board now appeals, arguing that the purchases did not meet
the requirements for an arm's length, bona fide sale
under OCGA § 48-5-2 (.1) because the sellers were not
willing participants and were not acting in their own self
interests. As a result, Astor was not entitled to
"freeze" the maximum allowable fair market values
at their purchase prices under OCGA § 48-5-2 (3). We are
statute, each county is authorized to assess and levy taxes
annually against property based on the fair market value of
that property. OCGA §§ 48-5-6 and 48-5-220.
The intent and purpose of the tax laws of this state are to
have all property and subjects of taxation returned at the
value which would be realized from the cash sale, but not
the forced sale, of the property and subjects as such
property and subjects are usually sold except as
otherwise provided in this chapter.
(Emphasis supplied.) OCGA § 48-5-1.
§ 48-5-2 (3) provides a limitation on the maximum
allowable fair market value. Under that provision,
"[n]otwithstanding any other provision of this
chapter to the contrary, the transaction amount of
the most recent arm's length, bona fide sale in any year
shall be the maximum allowable fair market value for the next
taxable year." (emphasis supplied). "Arm's
length, bona fide sale" is defined as
a transaction which has occurred in good faith without fraud
or deceit carried out by unrelated or unaffiliated parties,
as by a willing buyer and a willing seller, each acting in
his or her own self-interest, including but not limited
to a ...