Information Sheet - 8
EVIDENCE IN A HEARING
Evidence is the material that is submitted to a decision-maker to establish the factual basis for the decision. Generally, it provides the "proof" of the issues in dispute.
Evidence may be provided by the oral testimony of witnesses, by documents, by photographs or by physical objects.
The Board may accept any evidence that is relevant to an issue in the appeal and may make rulings on the admissibility of evidence. It is not bound by the technical and legal rules of evidence and may accept evidence that would not necessarily be accepted in a court - as long as the evidence is relevant.
The Board has no evidence in an appeal, except the appeal letter and the evidence the parties provide the Board. Any evidence the parties submitted to the Property Assessment Review Panel is not forwarded to the Board. The appeal before the Board is an entirely new proceeding and provides the parties with a fresh opportunity to present evidence in support of their case.
Witnesses at a formal hearing must take an oath or affirmation that their evidence will be the truth. Oaths and affirmations have the same legal effect. Whether a person swears an oath or affirms to tell the truth, the person is bound by conscience and law to tell the truth.
In an assessment appeal, where the issue is the determination of value, the Board needs evidence on the value of the property. If the property itself has not sold, the best evidence of its value can be determined from sales of other similar properties. If you are appealing the assessment of a single family residential property, please refer to the Board's guide How to Prepare for a Single Family Residential Assessment Appeal.
When a party relies upon appraisal reports or opinion letters, it is always better to have the author of the report or letter present to explain any adjustments and answer questions. Evidence that cannot be tested by cross-examination will generally be less persuasive. Evidence that includes an opinion of value from a qualified appraiser or real estate professional is considered "expert evidence". See the discussion of expert evidence below.
The Board must consider all the evidence before it and decide which evidence it prefers. The Board may accept or reject all or part of a party's evidence and may determine that the value of the property is lower than, equal to, or higher than the values determined by the Property Assessment Review Panel. The Board must make a decision on the values of both the land and improvements, whether or not the parties have raised the value of both as an issue.
Expert evidence is evidence that expresses an opinion, from someone who is qualified to give an opinion in a particular field. For example, the Board could accept as an expert report the appraisal report of a qualified appraiser, in which the appraiser expresses an opinion of value.
An "expert" is someone who is qualified by education, training or experience in a particular subject, to give an opinion on that subject. Witnesses who are not "experts" may not be entitled to give opinions on matters outside common everyday experience. If their opinions are admitted, they may be given less weight by the hearing panel.
The parties must deliver, to the Board and directly to each of the other parties, a copy of any expert reports they intend to present at the hearing. If a party intends to present expert opinion evidence without a full report, the party must provide a statement of the expert's opinion, together with the facts upon which it is based and the qualifications of the expert. If the Board has not made any orders for the production of documents, the expert reports or statement of the expert's opinion must be delivered at least 3 weeks before the date of the hearing. The Board probably will not permit a party to present an opinion from an expert witness, if the expert's evidence was not produced in advance of the hearing.
The purpose of exchanging expert reports in advance of the hearing is to for the parties to provide each other with advance notice of any opinion evidence from a qualified expert. It also provides the parties with an opportunity to review and consider the opinions, and facts upon which the opinion is based, and to prepare questions to ask at the hearing.
Beyond appraisal reports, other documents that may provide evidence of value include sales documents, Land Title Office records, sales listings, and estimates or invoices for repairs. Photographs may assist in showing the comparability of properties, or repair work that needs to be done. The Board may order the parties to produce all documents in advance of a hearing with the same timelines as expert evidence.
Parties who present reports or other documents as evidence must provide two copies for the Board and a copy for each other party to the appeal. If the Board staff have to make copies of documents because you did not provide enough copies, then you will be required to pay photocopying charges. If the documents are those which are to be produced in advance of the hearing, then the copies for the other parties should be sent directly to those other parties.