Sunday, December 18, 2011

How do I start the process of contesting my Assessment?

The initial form you must file to challenge your assessment is the Complaint on Real Property Assessment RP-524 Form.  See NYS Form RP-524

Part One - General information

Lines 1 through 4 are self-explanatory.
Line 5 - You can find your property identification information on your property tax bill or the assessment roll.
Line 6 - You’ll find your land assessment and total assessment on the assessment roll or a notice from your assessor's office. Note that you can’t grieve the land assessment – you can only grieve the total assessment.
Line 7 - Determine the market value of your property based on sources of information suggested on RP-524, Part II. 

Remember that your estimate of the market value of your property should be based on your property’s value as of the Valuation Date, which is July 1 of the prior year in most municipalities. You should be careful when determining how much of an assessment reduction to request because you may be precluded from obtaining a greater reduction than the amount you request, even if circumstances should show that a larger reduction is warranted.

Part Two - Value of property

In order to qualify for a reduced assessment, you will need to prove to the satisfaction of the BAR that your property is currently over-assessed. This section gives you the opportunity to provide information that supports a lower assessment.

For homeowners and owners of most residential properties, the best way to support your case is by providing sales of comparable properties where the sales prices are lower than the assessor’s estimated market value of your property.

Part Three - Grounds for complaint

In this section, you will make your case for reduced assessment by demonstrating that your property is assessed either:

·                  at a higher level of assessment than the rest of the community (Unequal – Option A)
·                  higher than the actual market value of your property (Excessive – Option B1)
·                  too high because an exemption has been improperly denied (Excessive – Option B2)
·                  too high because a transition assessment was inaccurately calculated (Excessive – Option B3)
·                  in a way that is contrary to the law (Unlawful – Option C) in the wrong class in a community that uses homestead and non-homestead tax rates (Misclassification – Option D)

Details of each option are below:

A. Unequal Assessment

You can claim unequal assessment if assessments in your city, town or village are not at 100% of market value and your property is assessed at a higher percentage of value than the average of all other properties or all other residential properties on the same assessment roll.

To demonstrate that your property is unequally assessed, first determine an estimate of the market value of your property as described above. Then determine the average level of assessment (also known as the uniform percentage of value) at which all other properties are assessed on the same assessment roll. To establish the level of assessment of your municipality, the following figures will be helpful:

·         equalization rate (available from our Web site)
·         residential assessment ratio for the city, town or village (available from our Web site)
·         uniform percentage of value listed on the assessment roll

Of those three options, the one that is the lowest will generally be of the greatest value in determining the over-assessment of your property.

In addition or alternatively, you may wish to generate your own estimate of your community’s level of assessment for either all property or just residential property using either Market values and assessments of a sample of other properties on the same assessment roll or Purchase price and assessment of other properties that have recently sold.

Unequal assessment based on the equalization rate - Once you establish the value of your property and the level of assessment at which other properties are assessed, you can apply the level of assessment to your property and compare the result to your assessment. If the result is lower than your assessment, you can request that your assessment be reduced to that lower amount.

For example:

If you prove the market value of your property is $200,000, an assessment of $150,000 would show that your property is assessed at 75% of market value. If you prove that all other property on average is assessed at 50%, you could claim a reduction of your assessment to $100,000.

Unequal assessment based on the residential assessment ratio – If you own a one, two or three family residential real property, you also have the option of proving that the your property is assessed at higher level of assessment than the level of assessment applied to other residential properties on the same assessment roll.

Once you determine the level of assessment of other residential properties you can apply this level to the value of your property. If the result is lower than your assessment, you can request that your assessment be reduced to that lower amount. For example:

·                  If you prove the value of your property is $200,000, an assessment of $100,000 would show that your property is assessed at 50% of market value.

·         If you prove that all other residential property is assessed on the average at 25%, you may claim a reduction of your assessment to $50,000.

B. Excessive Assessment

There are three cases where excessive assessment is the correct option to use:

If your municipality is assessing at 100% of market value and you believe your assessed value is greater than the full market value of the property
If you were denied a property tax exemption, or if you believe the exemption was calculated incorrectly. If you filed an exemption application with the assessor, include a copy of the application with your complaint. If you do not have a copy, you should request that the assessor submit it to the BAR.

Cities, towns and villages that use homestead/non-homestead tax rates can adopt a system of transition assessments. The transition assessments phase in over five years all increases and decreases in assessed valuations resulting from a revaluation. If your city, town or village has adopted transition assessments and you believe that the transition assessment for your property has been improperly calculated, you can claim an excessive assessment.

C. Unlawful Assessment

Unlawful Assessment is the option to choose if you believe your property is assessed in a way contrary to the law such that your property should be wholly exempt from property taxes because of its status as a certain type of organization or agency (e.g., churches, colleges, etc.) and you submitted an application for such an exemption  is located totally outside the boundaries of the city, town, village, school district or special district indicated on the assessment roll was assessed by someone other than the assessor or your assessment was entered or changed after the tentative assessment roll was filed cannot be located from the description on the assessment roll is special franchise property (utility property in the public right-of-way) and the assessment exceeds the final assessment as determined by the Department of Taxation and Finance

D. Misclassification

If your municipality uses homestead and non-homestead tax rates and you believe your property is assessed in the wrong class (either entirely or partially), misclassification is the option to use.

The homestead class includes:

                    One, two, or three family residential parcels
                    Residential condominiums
                    Mixed use parcels (i.e., used in part for residential purposes and in part for non­residential purposes), if the primary use is residential
                    Mobile homes and trailers, only if they are owner-occupied and separately assessed
                    All vacant land parcels, not exceeding ten acres, which are located in an assessing unit which has a zoning law or ordinance in effect, provided that such parcels are located in a zone that does not allow a residential use other than for one, two or three family dwelling residential real property
                    Farm dwellings
                    All land used in agricultural production that is eligible for an agricultural assessment and the owner has filed an annual application for an agricultural assessment (Section 305 or 306 of the Agriculture and Market Law)
                    All farm buildings and structures as defined in Section 483(3) of the Real Property Tax Law
                    The non-homestead class includes all other real property (e.g., commercial, industrial, special franchise and utility property, and some vacant land.)

There are cases where part of a property can be classified homestead and part classified non‑
homestead. For example, in the case of a 100 acre parcel, an assessor may classify the residence and surrounding 10 acres as residential while the rest is classified as non-homestead.

Part four - Designation of representative

If you designated someone to represent you before the BAR, then list your name, your representative’s name, sign and date.

Part five - Certification

You or your representative must sign and date this section.

 Part six - Stipulation

Only complete this section if you and the assessor agreed to a reduced assessment. In these cases, the BAR is expected to ratify the stipulation. If you agree to a stipulation and it is approved by the BAR, you will no longer have the right to judicial review.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Where can I get current tax roll information on my property?

The following are Links to Westchester County Assessor Websites:

Town of BedfordTown of CortlandtTown of EastchesterTown of GreenburghTown of HarrisonTown of LewisboroTown of Mt. KiscoTown of Mt. PleasantCity of Mt. VernonTown of New CastleCity of New RochelleTown of North CastleTown of North SalemTown of OssiningCity of PeekskillTown of PelhamTown of Pound RidgeCity of RyeTown of RyeTown of ScarsdaleTown of SomersCity of YonkersTown of Yorktown, and City of White Plains.

If I protest my assessment, do I have to allow the Assessor to inspect my house?

In NY, you cannot be required to allow the Assessor to inspect the interior of your residence as a condition to filing and maintaining a tax protest or SCAR Proceeding.

On June 8, 2010, in the related cases: In the Matter of Amy Yee v. Town of OrangetownIn the Matter of Kenneth Kolwicz v. Town of Clarkstown; and In the Matter of Esther Braun v.Town of Ramapo, the NY Supreme Court, Appellate Division Second Department decided that requirement of an interior inspection of a property owner's house as a condition to maintaining a SCAR proceeding violated the property owner's rights under the SCAR statute and the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

To read the entire Decision, please go to the following link:

In the Matter of Amy Yee v. Town of Orangetown

What is the 2012 protest filing deadline for my Town?

Daniel Tartaglia, Esq.

The following link will give you the protest filing deadlines for most communities in the lower Hudson Valley, including Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess and Rockland Counties:

Protest Filing Deadlines

Of course, you should always check with your local Assessor to verify this information.

Where can I get real estate sales information?

Daniel Tartaglia, Esq.

An excellent free source for real estate sales information is provided by the Journal News LoHud online newspaper at the following link:

Free Sales Information

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How to estimate the market value of your property.

December 15, 2011

Daniel Tartaglia, Esq.


Market value is generally defined as the price a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for a property in its present condition with neither buyer nor seller under pressure to act (such as career relocation, death of a family member, divorce, etc.). A market value sale also is known as an arm's length transaction.

A number of factors may affect a residential property's market value, including:

External characteristics - "curb appeal", home condition, lot size, popularity of an architectural style of property, water/sewage systems, sidewalk, paved road, etc.

Internal characteristics - size and number of rooms, construction quality, appliance condition, demonstrated "pride of ownership", heating type, energy efficiency, etc.

Supply and demand - the number of homes for sale versus the number of buyers; how quickly the homes in your area sell, and

Location - desirability for a particular school district, neighborhood, etc.


The most common way to determine the market value of a residential property is to use the sales comparison approach. This is the primary method used by professional appraisers to determine the market value of residential properties.

To determine an estimate of a property's market value, arm's length comparable sales are used. By examining recent sales of at least three properties in a general (or similar) neighborhood that are comparable in building style, size and construction, one can begin to get a good understanding of a residential property's market value. However, it is important to consider the circumstances of such sales - perhaps the seller was desperate to "unload" the home, or the buyer paid much more than the asking price because there were other interested parties. Market value and sales price are not always the same.

Comparable sales should include characteristics similar to a given property, such as lot sizes, square footage, home style, age, and location of the home. A new three-bedroom Cape Cod house may not be comparable with an older three bedroom split-level ranch, even if they are on the same street.

Since it may prove difficult to find an exact comparable sale, allowances must be made. To arrive at an estimated market value, dollar adjustments are made for differences between the property being valued (also known as the subject property) and the comparable properties that have sold.

For example, assume that a residential property is a 1,500 square feet ranch with 3-bedrooms, 1 bathroom, full basement, and two-car garage on ½ acre of land. It was built six years ago in a nice neighborhood. Three recent arms-length sales are identified that appear to be comparable with the subject property. However, Sale #1 is in a less desirable (or inferior) location and Sale #3 has an additional bath. Sale #2 is almost identical to the subject property.

To estimate the market value of the subject property, one needs to determine how the differences between the subject property and each comparable sale property relates to prices at which they sold.In this case: Sale #1 is in a less desirable location, which lowered the sale price; and Sale #3 has an extra bath, which increased the sale price.

A grid, such as the one above, is helpful to arrive at the market value of residential properties. Because the subject property is not in an inferior location, Sale #1 should be adjusted to reflect what it would have sold for in the subject property's neighborhood. Sale #3 with an extra bath needs to be adjusted to the sales price of a property with only one bath. Because Sale #2 is almost identical to the subject property, no adjustments are necessary.

By adding and deducting these adjustments to the comparable sale, an adjusted sale price is arrived at for each sale.

A common mistake is to average the unadjusted sales prices to arrive at the market value of the subject property. This can yield widely varying results. Only the sales that are most similar to the subject property, and that have been appropriately adjusted, should be given the most weight.


Local assessors' offices should be able to provide the sales history of a particular house, neighborhood, or style of architecture. Some assessors also provide lists of recent sales that one can browse and compare to the assessment roll.

Some municipalities choose to provide local sales in their offices or online.
Some private companies provide comparable sales online (some at a nominal cost); search for them using keywords such as "comparable home sales" or "comparable sales". In addition, one may wish to try searching "real estate database - New York State" for additional property information.
Many local newspapers are good sources of real estate information; they often have quarterly sales reports in the real estate or business sections.

A real estate agent may be willing to share his or her expertise and sales history information.


New York State Law requires all properties in each municipality to be assessed at a uniform percentage of market value each year. This means that all properties in each city, town, or village must be assessed at market value or all at the same uniform percentage of market value each year. Your assessor may use mass appraisal techniques, real estate market trends, the sales comparison, as well as other approaches to value to arrive at a property's estimated market value, which is available on the assessment roll.

Once the market value of each property is determined, the assessor applies the municipal-wide level of assessment to the market values.In many communities, where assessments are maintained at a level of assessment of 100, a property's assessment is the assessor's estimate of its market value. If a community is assessing at a percentage of market value, each assessment should be based upon the percentage being used throughout the community. For instance, if the market value of a property is $100,000, and the community is assessing at 30 percent of market value, the assessment should be $30,000.

If one determines the market value of his or her property and feels that the assessor's estimate of market value (upon which the assessment is based) is too high, then the property owner should contact the assessor's office to learn the procedures for informal assessment review. During the informal review process, the property owner and the assessor can each discuss the property's inventory (or characteristics) and how the market value estimates were determined. If the property owner remains unsatisfied with the assessment, he or she has the right to formal administrative and judicial review of the assessment. The assessor can provide the property owner with information on these processes.

What is an Assessment?

Daniel Tartaglia, Esq.

A property's assessment is based on its market value. Market value is how much a property would sell for under normal conditions. Assessments are determined by the assessor, an elected or appointed local official who independently estimates the value of real property in an assessing unit. Assessing units follow municipal boundaries - county, city, town, or village.

The assessor can estimate the market value of property based on the sale prices of similar properties. A property can also be valued based on the depreciated cost of materials and labor required to replace it. Commercial property may be valued on its potential to produce rental income for its owners. In other words, the assessor can use whatever approach provides the best estimate of a property's market value. Properties in suboptimal uses generally may not be assessed at market value; they must be assessed at their current-use value.

Once the assessor estimates the value of a property, its total assessment is calculated by multiplying the market value by the uniform percentage for the municipality. New York State law provides that all property in a municipality be assessed at the same uniform percentage of value (except in Nassau County and NYC where class assessing is authorized). That percentage can be five percent, ten percent, 50 percent, or any other percentage not exceeding 100 percent. It does not matter what percentage is used. What is important is that every property is assessed at the same uniform percentage within one assessing unit.

After a property's total assessment is determined, its taxable assessed value is computed. The taxable assessed value is the total assessment minus any applicable property tax exemptions. Exemptions are typically either whole or partial, that is either an exemption from paying any property tax or an exemption from paying part of a property tax bill.

How Is My Tax Bill Calculated?

December 15, 2011

Daniel D. Tartaglia, Esq.

Remember that the real property tax is an ad valorem tax, or a tax based on the value of property. Two owners of real property of equal value in the same municipality should pay the same amount in property taxes. Also, the owner of more valuable property should pay more in taxes than the owner of less valuable property.

The property tax differs from the income tax and the sales tax because it does not depend on how much money you earn or on how much you spend. It is based totally on how much the property you own is worth. For example, if an assessor assesses property at 15 percent of value, a house and land with a market value of $100,000 would have an assessment of $15,000. With no exemptions, this is the property’s taxable assessed value. This $15,000 is not the tax bill. The tax bill for this house depends on the municipality's tax rate. The tax rate is determined by dividing the total amount of money that has to be raised from the property tax (the tax levy) by the taxable assessed value of taxable real property in a municipality.

If, for example, a town levy is $2,000,000, and the town has a taxable assessed value (the sum of the assessments of all taxable properties) of $40,000,000, the tax rate would be $50 for each $1,000 of taxable assessed value.

$2,000,000 / $40,000,000 = .050 x $1,000 = $50 (tax rate)

The town tax bill for this house with an assessment of $15,000 would be $750. The $750 results from dividing the assessment of $15,000 by $1,000 to get $15 (because the tax rate is based on each $1,000 of assessed value). Then, the $15 is multiplied by the tax rate to get the tax bill of $750.

$15,000 / $1,000 = $15 x $50 = $750 (tax bill)

As you can see, the size of the tax bill depends on both the assessment and the tax rate, which is based on the tax levy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What's a BAR and a SCAR?

By: Daniel Tartaglia, Esq.

Like other professions, Tax Assessor's use a lot of jargon. BAR and SCAR are easy to understand because they are simple acronyms.


The BAR is the Board of Assessment Review in counties outside Nassau and NYC or the Assessment Review Commission (ARC) in NYC and Nassau County. 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 staff from the assessor's office. Assessors, however, are required to attend all formal hearings of the board and have the right to be heard on any complaint.

You have the right to attend the hearing of the BAR and to present statements and/or documentation in support of your grievance. You may appear personally, with or without your attorney or other representative.

If you choose to be represented by your attorney or other representative, you must authorize that person to appear on your behalf (see Part Four of Form RP-524).
The BAR may require you or your representative to appear personally, or to submit additional evidence. If you refuse to appear or answer any material question you will not be entitled to a reduction in assessment by the BAR.

You will receive a notice of the board's determination. The notice must contain a statement of the reasons for the board's determination.


The Small Claims Assessment Review is a procedure that provides property owners with an opportunity to challenge the assessment on their real property as determined by the Board of Assessment Review (the Board) (in counties outside Nassau and NYC) or the Assessment Review Commission (ARC) (in NYC and Nassau County). It is a less costly and more informal alternative to a formal Tax Certiorari proceeding, which can be time consuming and expensive and requires an attorney. As outlined in Section 730 of the Real Property Tax Law, property owners may petition the court for review of their property assessment before a specially trained hearing officer for a nominal fee of $30.

However, Small Claims Assessment Review (SCAR) is only available to:

o Property owners who live in their one, two or three family dwellings that are used exclusively for residential purposes, or
o Owners of vacant land that is not of sufficient size to contain a one, two or three family dwelling

Otherwise, you are left with the more formal Tax Certiorari proceeding.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Where in Westchester do I live?

By: Daniel Tartaglia, Esq.

First and foremost, before doing anything else you need to determine where you live so you can figure out which taxing jurisdiction sets and controls your assessed valuation. While this may seem simple, it can actually be quite tricky. Many people confuse their Post Office Address with their taxing jurisdiction. For example, there are neighborhoods and post office locations throughout Westchester that don't correspond to taxing jurisdictions.

Below we've listed a few:

Post Office Addresses and Corresponding Tax Jurisdictions:

(Crestwood - Yonkers),(Katonah - Bedford), (Edgemont - Greenburgh) and (Purchase - Harrison).

Then there is the complication of Villages. Some Villages in Westchester maintain separate tax assessing unit status, while others have relinquished it. And for those Villages that continue to maintain separate assessing unit status, some maintain their own tax roll which may be different from the tax roll of the Town where the Village is located. And some just adopt the Town's roll as the Village roll so that the two rolls match. What this means is that if you live in a Village that still maintains separate tax assessing unit status and maintains a separate tax roll from the Town it is located in, in order to lower your Village taxes as well as your Town taxes you must file a grievance twice and go through the process twice. Examples of this would be the Village of Buchanan and the Town of Cortlandt, and the Village of Mamaroneck and Town of Mamaroneck.

If all of this is making your head spin, we suggest that you start by first calling your Village (if you live in one) and asking for the Assessor's Office. Most Village Clerks will know whether to send you directly to the Town Assessor or not.

If you still can't get a straight answer, or would like to check what you've been told, feel free to call us at 914-462-3889 or email me at