Lower Your Property Taxes by Contesting Your Assessment

The Deadline for Most New York Property Owners to Contest Their Assessment is Tuesday, May 23, 2023
By Nicholas J. Scarantino, Esq.

Grievance Day falls on the 4th Tuesday in May every year, and in most New York Counties, that deadline has not changed for 2023. With the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, the real property tax grievance process should return to “normal” this year, which means that you should have full access to the assessor’s office to review assessment records, pick up and drop off grievance forms, and appear in-person at the Board of Assessment Review Hearings. Last year (and since 2020), many cities, towns and villages have conducted these hearings remotely by Zoom or teleconference, but this year for example, the City of Binghamton and the Town of Union will only provide in-person hearings. These hearings are scheduled on a first-come, first-serve basis only after you file your Grievance Petition.

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 cannot 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 is 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 67.5%, meaning a property with a $67,500 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.”

In order to maintain Full Value, these municipalities are obligated to continue to re-evaluate their properties. In 2022, most residents in the Town of Vestal saw their assessments change (most of them increased) after such a re-evaluation of residential properties as a result of increased property sales data and market trends from the past several years. Vestal is planning another reevaluation again this year, which means that property owners in the town should receive a change in assessment notice sometime during the first week of May.  Prior to May 1st of each year, you may simply contact your assessor directly to ask for an assessment reduction, but you better have proof (such as a recent appraisal) for why you feel your property is assessed too high. After May 1st, you must use the Grievance Day process.

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 is 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. This year the deadline in most locations for filing this grievance application is Tuesday, May 23, 2023 for purposes of contesting your upcoming 2023-24 school property tax bill and 2024 city, village, 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. Call your assessor’s office to confirm.

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 called an Article 7. A property owner can NOT 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.

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