law-standing-for-property-tax-protest  judicial review suit ad valorem property tax appraisal protest, appeal

STANDING TO LITIGATE PROPERTY TAX APPRAISAL - APPEAL

Standing is a component of subject-matter jurisdiction that cannot be waived.  Tex. Ass'n of Bus.
v. Tex. Air Control Bd., 852 S.W.2d 440, 445-46 (Tex. 1993).  
If a party has no standing, a trial
court has no subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the case.  Id. at 444-45.  A trial court's jurisdiction
to hear the subject matter of a dispute may be challenged by filing a plea to the jurisdiction.  See
Bland Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Blue, 34 S.W.3d 547, 554 (Tex. 2000).  

A defendant may prevail on a plea to the jurisdiction by demonstrating that, regardless of merit, an
incurable jurisdictional defect remains on the face of the pleadings that deprives the trial court of
subject-matter jurisdiction.  
Harris County Appraisal Dist. v. O'Conner & Assocs., 267 S.W.3d
413, 416 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, no pet.).  In determining a plea to the jurisdiction,
a trial court may consider the pleadings and any evidence pertinent to the jurisdictional inquiry.  
Bland, 34 S.W.3d at 554-55.

We
review a trial court's ruling on a plea to the jurisdiction de novo.  See Tex. Dep't of Parks &
Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 226 (Tex. 2004) (setting forth
standard of review for pleas to
the jurisdiction).  In our review, we construe the pleadings liberally in favor of the pleader and look
to the pleader's intent to determine whether the facts alleged affirmatively demonstrate the trial
court's jurisdiction to hear the cause.  See id.  In a review of a plea to the jurisdiction, we cannot
examine the merits of the case.  See Houston Indep. Sch. Dist. v. 1615 Corp., 217 S.W.3d 631,
635 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2006, pet. denied) (op. on reh'g).

JUDICIAL REVIEW SUIT PLAINTIFF DID NOT HAVE STANDING (NOT PROPERTY
OWNER)
As a general rule, only a property owner may protest tax liability before an appraisal-review board and
seek judicial review in court.  Tourneau Houston, Inc. v. Harris County Appraisal Dist., 24 S.W.3d 907, 909
(Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2000, no pet.) (op. on reh’g).  Section 42.21(a) of the Property Tax Code
requires a party who appeals as provided by Chapter 42 of the Property Tax Code to timely file a petition
for review with the district court.  Failure to timely file a petition bars any appeal under the chapter.  Tex.
Tax Code Ann. § 42.21(a) (Vernon Supp. 2009).[5]  Section 42.01 of the Tax Code specifies that a
“property owner is entitled to appeal . . . an order of the appraisal review board determining . . . a protest
by the property owner” as provided by sections 41.41 et seq. of the Property Tax Code.  Id. § 42.01(1)(A)
(emphasis added).  Alternatively, a property owner may designate a lessee or an agent to act on the
property owner’s behalf for any purpose under the Property Tax Code, including filing a tax protest.  Id. §§
1.111 (Vernon 2008) (authorizing a designated lessee or agent to act for a property owner), 41.413(b)
(Vernon 2008) (authorizing a lessee to protest for the property owner in certain circumstances).
Therefore, to qualify as a “party who appeals” by seeking judicial review of an appraisal-review board’s tax
determination under section 42.21(a), SWP had to be an owner of the property, a designated agent of the
owner, or the authorized lessee of the property under the circumstances stated in section 41.413.  A party
who does not meet one of the above criteria would lack standing under the Property Tax Code.  BACM,
2009 WL 2145922, at *3.  If the litigant lacks standing, the trial court is deprived of subject-matter
jurisdiction to consider a suit for judicial review based on an ad valorem tax protest.  Id.
SWP Remic Properties II LP  v. HCAD (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Jan. 7, 2010) (Sullivan)      
(trial court’s order granting
Harris County Appraisal District’s (“HCAD”) plea to the jurisdiction affirmed; ad
valorem tax protest appeal judicial review suit not brought by owner of property. Rule 28 inapplicable)
AFFIRMED: Opinion by
Justice Sullivan      
Before     
14-08-00425-CV  SWP Remic Properties II LP as the Property Owners and the Property Owners v. Harris
County Appraisal District    Appeal from 55th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge:
Jeff Shadwick   
Here, SWP did not own the property as of January 1, 2007.  SWP did not claim rights to protest under the
Property Tax Code as either a lessee or an agent.  Therefore, SWP lacked standing to pursue judicial
review as a “party who appeals” under section 42.21(a).  The record does not reflect that Equitex pursued
its right of protest as the actual property owner.  According to the record, Equitex was not named as a
party until March 28, 2008 when SWP filed a first amended original petition.  Therefore, the Review Board
had not determined a protest by the actual property owner, Equitex, upon which Equitex could premise a
right to appeal as the property owner.

MUST BE OWNER OF THE PROPERTY

Woodway Drive LLC v. HCAD (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] March 4, 2010)(per curiam)
(
owner must file property tax protext judicial review suit; dismissal for want of jurisdiction affirmed;
no substitution of new owner under Rule 28)
AFFIRMED: Per Curiam     
Before Justices Brock Yates, Seymore and Brown    
14-09-00524-CV  Woodway Drive LLC aka First Reliance Metering LP v.
Harris County Appraisal District   Appeal from 189th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge:  
William R. Burke JR.   
Although appellants cite HCAD’s records that reflect First Reliance as the property owner even after the
property sale, HCAD’s records alone are not sufficient to establish Woodway operated its business under
the common name of First Reliance.  See KM-Timbercreek, LLC v. Harris County Appraisal Dist., — S.W.
3d —, No. 01-08-00689-CV, 2009 WL 3321332, at *7 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Oct. 15, 2009, no
pet.) (stating only Timbercreek could establish whether it operated its business under an assumed or
common name).  There is no evidence that Woodway held itself out as First Reliance or requested HCAD
refer to it as First Reliance in its records.  Id.

RRB Land Investmenst Ltd v. HCAD (Tex.App. - Houston [14th Dist.] Feb. 4, 2010)(per curiam)
(
only owner has standing to challenge property tax appraisal, application of Texas Rule of Civil Procedure
28 re substitution of true name for common name, dba)   
AFFIRMED: Per Curiam   
Before Justices Brock Yates, Seymore and Brown    
14-09-00317-CV  RRB Land Investments Ltd., aka Cypresswood Venture I Ltd and Cypresswood Venture I
Ltd, as the Property Owners v.
Harris County Appraisal District    
Appeal from 269th District Court of Harris County  

BACM 2002 PBs Westpart Dr LP v. HCAD (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Jul. 21, 2009)(Frost)
CITE: BACM 2002 PB2 Westpark Dr. LP v. Harris County Appraisal Dist., 14-08-00493-CV, 2009 WL
2145922 at 1, n. 1 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] June 21, 2009, no pet.) (mem. op.).
(prior owner
did not have standing to bring ad valorem tax protests appeal, judicial review suit, assumed
name theory as basis for substitution of correct party rejected, no standing - no subject matter
jurisdiction).  
AFFIRMED: Opinion by
Justice Frost     
Before Chief Justice Hedges, Justices Brock Yates and Frost   
14-08-00493-CV BACM 2002 PB2 Westpark Dr LP, Houston Parkwest Place Ltd, as the Property Owners
and the Property Owners v.
Harris County Appraisal District and the Appraisal Review Board of Harris
County Appraisal District   Appeal from 11th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court
Judge: Mark Davidson  

MORE STANDING CASES FROM HOUSTON COURTS OF APPEALS

DL Louetta Village Square LP v. HCAD (pdf) (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Dec. 22, 2009)(Seymore)
(
dismissal for lack of standing affirmed)(before use of a common name is adequate to justify substitution
under Rule 28, a party must show it was in fact doing business under that common name, dba)
AFFIRMED: Opinion by
Justice Seymore    
Before Justices Seymore, Brown and Sullivan
14-08-00549-CV  DL Louetta Village Square LP and JL Louetta Village Square LP a/k/a Nomura Credit
Capital Inc as the Property Owners and the
Property Owners v. Harris County Appraisal District   
Appeal from 280th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court
Judge: Tony Lindsay  

Skylane West Ltd. v. HCAD (pdf) (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Dec. 22, 2009) (Seymore)
(
plea to the jurisdiction, lack of standing, not property owner, thus no standing to litigate) (trial court
properly concluded it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims of all appellants)
AFFIRMED: Opinion by
Justice Charles Seymore    
Before Justices Seymore, Brown and Sullivan
14-08-00507-CV  Skylane West Ltd., Houston Skylane One LLC a/k/a Skylane West Ltd., an Skylane West
Apartments, as the Property Owners and the Property Owners v.
Harris County Appraisal District   Appeal
from 113th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge:
Patricia Ann Hancock  

Previous owner of property lacked standing to challenge HCAD's appraisal and to file suit for
judicial review of board's decision in property tax protest; new owner's suit barred for failure to
comply with exhaustion-of-remedies requirement, which is jurisdictional under Texas Supreme
Court precedent

Koll Bren Fund VI LP v. HCAD (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Feb. 28, 2008) (Radack)
(property tax protest, tax appeal,
suit for judicial review, standing, exhaustion of administrative remedies
under the Property Tax Code)
AFFIRM TRIAL COURT JUDGMENT: Opinion by Chief Justice Radack
Before Chief Justice Radack, Justices Jennings and Bland
01-07-00321-CV Koll Bren Fund VI LP and Hartman 3100 Weslayan Acquisitions, LP v. Harris County
Appraisal District and The Appraisal Review Board of Harris County Appraisal District
Appeal from 113th District Court of Harris County (
Judge Hon. Patricia Hancock)

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