Articles Tagged with “New Jersey property tax”

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Thumbnail image for foreclosure.jpgIn New Jersey, every municipality is required by law to hold sales of unpaid property taxes at least once each year. The municipalities sell the tax liens to obtain the tax revenue which they should have been paid by the property owner. The municipal tax collector conducts the sale which allows third parties and the municipality itself to bid on the tax sale certificates (this is the document evidencing the taxes due and owing). The successful highest bidder then pays the outstanding taxes to the municipality and become the tax sale certificate holder. Then the holder records the tax sale certificate with the county clerk, who records the tax sale certificate as a lien against the property.

Purchasing the tax sale certificate is merely the first step. The tax sale certificate holder does not own the property, but merely has a lien against the property. The amount of the lien is the amount paid for the tax sale certificate plus interest (which normally accrues at a rate of 18%), costs and fees, including the certificate holder’s attorneys fees. The tax sale certificate holder must foreclose on the tax lien in order to become the owner of the property. The certificate holder has priority over any other liens against the property, including mortgages and other lien holders. The certificate holder must wait a statutorily proscribed period after the date of the sale of the certificate to initiate a foreclosure action. A municipality which purchased the certificate must wait six months; any other purchaser must wait two years.

Non-municipal tax sale certificate holders must provide thirty days written notice of their intention to foreclose before they can begin the foreclosure process on the certificate. This notice must include the amount which the delinquent property owner can pay to redeem the tax sale certificate and have the lien released. The notice must be sent by certified mail return receipt to all owners and to the municipal tax collector.

Then, if the property owner does not redeem the tax sale certificate within that 30 day period, the certificate holder is permitted to file its complaint for foreclosure. The complaint must name everyone who has a recorded interest in the property, which includes all mortgage and lien holders. The complaint must identify the property, the property owner and state the redemption amount. It must be served by certified mail return receipt. The property owner continues to have the right to redeem the tax sale certificate up until date of the final judgment. If the certificate is redeemed after a foreclosure action has been commenced, the property owner should file an Affidavit of Redemption and the foreclosure action will be dismissed by entry of an Order.
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Thumbnail image for property tax.jpgNow is the time to start thinking about appealing your property taxes.

The amount of property taxes a homeowner pays under New Jersey property tax law is determined by the municipal assessment. The lower the assessment, the lower the property taxes. While you cannot actually appeal the taxes you owe, New Jersey law allows you to appeal the assessment. The tax assessment of your property should reflect the fair market value of your home, which is adjusted by the municipality’s equalization ratio. The municipality is allowed a margin of error of fifteen percent. So, if your assessment is more than 15% over the equalized fair market value of your property, you should appeal your property taxes.

The first step is determining if your equalized assessment is more than fifteen percent above fair market value. First, you need a good approximation of the fair market value of your property – perhaps you know the sales prices of similar homes in your neighborhood, or a local realtor may be able to give you a rough estimate of the fair market value of your house, then you have a place to start. Next, you will receive a property assessment notice from the municipality which includes the assessed value of your property. Then, you need to check the equalization ratio for your municipality. Your assessment must then be equalized by applying the correct equalization ratio. Once you have applied the equalization ratio to the assessed value, you will know what the municipality believes is the fair market value of your property. If that number is more than fifteen percent above what you believe the fair market value to be, you should proceed to file a tax appeal petition.

At this point, you will need evidence to back up your assertion of your property’s fair market value. The best evidence is an appraisal by a certified appraiser who, if necessary, could testify at the tax appeal hearing. You can attempt to appeal your property taxes supported only by evidence of comparable recent sales, but the municipality can much more easily dismiss that evidence based on distinctions between your property and the each recent sale, or based upon facts surrounding the sale. For instance, it may have been a distressed sale where the seller was forced to accept a lower than market value price.
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New Jersey law N.J.S.A. 54:4-35.1 allows property owners to request reduced property tax assessments for property damaged as a result of Superstorm Sandy. This law was enacted in the response to a severe Nor’easter which hit New Jersey 1962. That storm caused significant property damage and there was no basis in the law for property tax relief for the affected tax payers. This year, that law is being used to assist property owners who have sustained significant property damage. The statute provides in part:

…When any building or other structure which has been destroyed, consumed by fire, demolished or altered in such a way that its value has materially depreciated, either intentionally or by the action of storm, fire, cyclone, tornado, or earthquake, or other casualty, …the assessor shall…after examination and inquiry, determine the value of such parcel real property as of…January 1, and assess the same according to such value.

Usually, when a homeowner files a property tax appeal, the appeal is based on the fair market value of the property on October 1st of the preceding year. Superstorm Sandy hit the coast of New Jersey on October 29, 2012, devastating communities and causing property damage in the United States which has been estimated to exceed $71 billion.

This law is very limited in that it only assists homeowners who have sustained damage between October 1st of the previous year and January 1st of the current tax year. It also requires notification of the assessor by the property owner before January 10 of the current tax year. If a homeowner notified the assessor and filed the appropriate form with supporting documentation prior to the January 10th deadline, the municipality will investigate and issue an assessment.
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