Lower Your Property Taxes By Contesting Your Assessment

The Deadline for Most New York Property Owners to Contest Their Assessment is May 25, 2021
By Nicholas J. Scarantino, Esq.

Grievance Day falls on the 4th Tuesday in May every year, and in most New York Counties, that has not changed for 2021. Once again this year, we expect many changes to the real property tax grievance process as a result of COVID-19 policies and procedures. If municipal offices continue to offer limited public access this May, it is likely that most assessors will not allow you to come into their offices to review assessment records, drop off your grievance forms and supporting evidence, or appear in person at the Board of Assessment Review Hearings. As was the case last year, we expect that most towns and cities will conduct these hearings remotely by Zoom, or by other virtual means, or perhaps just a teleconference. 

New York property owners know that paying their property tax bills can be a big financial burden. The amount a property owner is billed for a particular property is determined by multiplying the applicable property tax rates against that property’s assessment. Thus, a property with a lower assessment pays lower property taxes compared to a property in a similar location with a higher assessment. You probably can’t do anything to lower the tax rates that apply to you, but you may be able to lower your assessment to help lower your property tax bills. Here’s how to determine whether your assessment may be too high and how to go about getting it lowered.

All properties in the same city, town or village should have their assessments set at the same percentage of market value. In many locations, an equalization rate specific to the particular city, town or village is published annually which informs the property owners of the percentage of value at which their properties are assessed. For example, the equalization rate in the City of Binghamton is currently 79%, meaning a property with a $79,000 assessment is listed with the assessor as having a $100,000 fair market value. In some municipalities such as the Town of Vestal and the Town of Triangle (including the Village of Whitney Point), the equalization rate is currently 100%, meaning that the property’s assessment and listed value are the same, sometimes referred to as “Full Value.”

If you live in the Town of Vestal, you may see your property taxes go up this year because home sale prices in the Town have been trending upwards for several years. In order to maintain Full Value, the Town of Vestal has re-evaluated its residential properties. As a result, many home owners will see their assessments change in 2021. These changes will vary by neighborhoods and some property owners may see increases of 3%, 5% and even 10%. The Town of Vestal will begin mailing out Change in Assessment Notices this spring. All changes will be reflected on the May 1st Tentative Tax Roll.

If in reviewing your property’s assessment you think you can prove that its listed value is too high, then you may have a good argument for lowering your assessment. Good supporting facts include the recent purchase of your property for substantially less than its listed value, an appraisal indicating your property’s value is substantially less than its listed value, or properties similar to your property were recently purchased or sold for substantially less than your property’s listed value. The fact that neighboring properties are worth more than your property but have lower assessments is most of the time not a sufficient argument.

It’s important to act quickly if you think you have a good argument for lowering your assessment. A property owner that wants to contest their assessment must first file a grievance application with their local board of assessment review. The deadline in most locations for filing this grievance application is May 25, 2021 for purposes of contesting 2021 school property tax bills and 2022 city, town and county property tax bills. In some locations though this deadline is sooner and it’s always best to not wait until the deadline is near. If the board of assessment review does not provide a satisfactory assessment reduction, then the property owner has the right to commence a judicial proceeding. A property owner can’t commence a judicial proceeding without having first properly filed a grievance application. The failure to follow the proper procedures can result in the property owner not being able to contest their assessment or reduce their tax bills for a full tax year.

The laws that apply to contesting assessments can be very technical and have harsh consequences. An attorney who has experience contesting assessments can use the law to your advantage and can provide insight into potentially improving the outcome. If you have a good argument, an attorney that handles these matters can advise you how much you may be able to save on your property tax bills.

Levene Gouldin & Thompson, LLP has attorneys experienced in handling these matters that are happy to assist you and answer any questions you may have.

Contact: Nicholas J. Scarantino, Esq.
450 Plaza Drive
Vestal, NY 13850

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