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Articles Tagged with “Property tax appeals”

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A law known as “Chapter 91” allows municipal property tax assessor’s to request income and expense information from a New Jersey property owner in order to assist in determining property “values” for its tax assessment. While this, standing alone, does not seem overly burdensome, if the property owners fail to respond to the assessor’s request pursuant to Chapter 91, property owners are barred from appealing their property tax assessment.

However, the law has strict provisions which must be followed by municipal assessors and taxpayers. The municipal assessor must send the request for income and expense information in writing, and the request must be sent via certified mail. The assessor must include a copy of the applicable statute with the written request. Moreover, the assessor’s request can only be made for properties which are producing income. The property owner must respond in writing to the assessor’s request within 45 days, and if he fails to do so, will not be permitted to file an appeal of the assessment. However, if the taxpayer fails to respond, the municipal assessor is still required to determine the full and fair market value of the property utilizing all available information. Additionally, the statute does include an exception, wherein if the property owner had good cause for being unable to provide the requested information, the applicable county tax board may take that into consideration.

Courts have construed the requirements imposed on the municipal tax assessor very strictly, due to the property owner’s resultant loss of the right to appeal if she fails to respond. New Jersey’s Tax Court has ruled that if the assessor does not comply with every requirement of the statute, “renders the statute inapplicable.” SAIJ Realty, Inc. v. Town of Kearny, 8 N.J.Tax 191, 197 (Tax 1986), including the provisions requiring the request be sent by certified mail and that a copy of the statute be included with the request. However, if the municipality meets the requirements of the law, the burden shifts to require the property owner to strictly comply with her obligations under the law, particularly responding in writing within 45 days.

New Jersey courts have consistently construed the law against property owners even in situations where it seems unjust. For example, even if the assessor’s request is overbroad or illegal, as long as the assessor has met the statute’s requirements, a property owner’s failure to respond can still result in loss of the right to appeal. The taxpayer is then required to respond to those requests which are not objectionable and advise the municipal assessor as to why the remaining requests are improper. Moreover, a property owner must still respond the properly sent request even if the request is made of a non-incoming producing property. The Tax Court has even held that failure to respond to a request, even when the request is made as to non-income producing property, will result in the taxpayer’s loss of its right to appeal the assessment. Furthermore, the Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court upheld the loss of the right to appeal where the taxpayer sent a response after the 45 days had expired. The Appellate Division also ruled that an appeal was properly dismissed where the requested information was provided to the attorney for the municipality, but not the assessor. These decisions were all justified because of the important governmental interest and the statute’s mandatory wording.
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Thumbnail image for watching-time-860275-s.jpgIf you own property in Monmouth County the property tax appeal deadline has changed. While the new date in the rest of the state remains April 1st, Monmouth County has volunteered to test out a new law changing the appeal date to January 15, 2014 or within 45 days of the bulk mailing of the municipal assessments, whichever is later. If your property is in Monmouth County and you did not file your petition to appeal your property tax assessment on or before January 15th, you will not be able to file and appeal this year unless the notice was mailed within the last 45 days or there was a town-wide revaluation.

New legislation was enacted and the governor signed into law, P.L. 2013, c. 15, creating a demonstration program which allows up to four counties to opt into the new law, two in the first two years and two more in the following two years. At the present time, only one county has opted in, Monmouth County.

This is a significant change because the deadline to file a petition to appeal a property tax assessment in the rest of the state of New Jersey remains April 1, or within 45 days of the bulk mailing of the property tax cards, whichever is later. While property tax cards are traditionally been mailed out in February, most Monmouth County municipalities have already mailed out their property tax cards. The appeals hearings in participating counties are expected to be conducted by the end of April.

The stated purpose of the new law is to establish a collaborative system of property assessment between the county board of taxation and the municipal assessors which it is hoped will result reductions in cost and increases in accuracy and consistency of assessments. The stated purpose of the change in the appeal deadline is to assist in municipal budgeting and to more evenly distribute tax losses to municipalities which result from tax appeals across the various governmental entities on whose behalf taxes are collected (i.e. school, county). However, the change appears suspiciously timed to limit property owners’ right to challenge their assessments and make more money for the towns.
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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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