Grievance Day is Coming, Are You Ready?
NYFB Assistant Director of Public Policy
Grievance Day comes but once a year and it is the only opportunity for landowners to contest their property assessment. Property assessors spend March and April completing the tentative assessment role that lines out the proposed assessed value for all properties. Landowners have only a few weeks to review the assessment and then contest this proposed value on Grievance Day, which usually falls on the fourth Tuesday in May. This date can vary for each municipality and it is important to confirm the deadline with the local assessor’s office.
Landowners need to review their property assessment which can be found on the local municipalities’ website. State law requires towns and cities to make assessment rolls available on the internet and provide a link to the information on their homepages. Landowners should check their respective local municipal online assessment rolls list which lines out each property’s assessed value, estimated market value, and exemptions. If the property valuation appears to be incorrect, the property owner is entitled to file an assessment grievance. While assessors are supposed to notify landowners if there has been a change in assessed value, failure to receive such notice does not make the assessment invalid. Note that landowners cannot grieve the land assessment; they can only grieve the total assessment.
Once a landowner receives their tentative assessment value, reviews it, and finds a discrepancy, the best course of action is to set up a meeting and discuss the proposed assessment with the local assessor. It is recommended that the landowner come prepared to the meeting with the assessed value of similar properties. If this meeting does not provide a satisfactory result for the landowner, the next formal step is to have the case considered by the Board of Assessment Review (BAR).
When requesting a review, farms must claim specific reasons for challenging the assessment. These can include unequal assessment (the property has been treated differently than other similar properties), excessive assessment (the assessed value is greater than the full market value), unlawful assessment, or misclassification. In each of these cases, landowners will need to justify why the proposed assessment is incorrect. This could include a farm appraisal from an appraiser with agricultural experience or examples of similar property sales in the area. Farms may be assessed from the perspective of what another farmer would pay for the property.
In order to have a tentative assessment value reviewed by the BAR on Grievance Day, landowners need to submit a RP-524 form, available at www.tax.ny.gov or from the local assessor’s office, with their assessor prior to the meeting. Failure to submit this form removes a landowner’s right to be heard by the BAR. A form needs to be submitted for each parcel where an assessment is being challenged. Again, it is recommended that landowners check with the local assessor for specific requirements and deadlines that must be met for BAR review. After a landowner files a complaint form, they also have the opportunity to present a case in front of the BAR.
There is a BAR in each municipality. It has the authority to review and revise the tentative assessment for properties made by the local assessor. Generally, each BAR meets on the fourth Tuesday of May to hear from landowners who believe their land has been assessed incorrectly. Some towns and counties have different meeting dates, so it is recommended that landowners confirm the grievance date with the local municipality.
The BAR consists of three to five members appointed by the city council, town board, or village board. The BAR cannot include the assessor or any other staff from the assessor’s office. Assessors, however, are required to attend the formal hearings of the BAR and have the right to be heard on any compliant. Landowners have the right to attend the hearing of the BAR to present statements and/or documentation in support of their grievance. They may appear personally, with or without their attorney or other representative. If they choose to be represented by their attorney or other representative, they must authorize that person to appear on their behalf. The BAR may require the landowner or their representative to appear personally or submit additional evidence. If the landowner refuses to appear or answer any material question, they will not be entitled to a reduction in assessment.
Then they will receive a notice of the BAR’s determination (except when the BAR ratifies a stipulated assessment). The notice must contain a statement with the reasons for the determination. Should the BAR not make changes to the tentative assessment value, the landowner’s final recourse is to take legal action against the local municipality. Landowners can only pursue legal action if they have gone through the BAR process.
Property taxes can be a significant cost to farm businesses. This article provides a brief review of the grievance process. Landowners looking to file a complaint on an assessment should review Publication 1114 “Contesting Your Assessment in New York State,” which provides information on how to fill out Form RP- 524 and the step-by-step process. Visit www.tax.ny.gov for more information.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be, nor should it be considered, a substitute for legal advice rendered by a competent attorney. If you have any questions about the application of the issues raised herein to your particular situation, seek the advice of a competent attorney.