Property Tax Challenges

Tax Certiorari is the practice of homeowners and property owners challenging the property tax assessments issued by municipalities as a basis for real estate taxes for their residential, commercial and utility properties.

Scott Stone has been involved in tax certiorari for more than 29 years, which a portion of the time was prior to being admitted to the Bar, having worked as an employee at the Nassau County Department of Assessment from 1986 – 1994.

A long time proponent for the need of fairness in the system, Scott has represented clients since 1994 throughout Long Island (Nassau County, the Suffolk County Towns and the various villages on the Island), Westchester and the Hudson Valley in challenging property tax assessments.

Scott provides personalized services to his clients, and has extensive experience in representing clients in every stage of the proceedings, including the grievance stage, small claims assessment review proceedings, also known as SCAR, for homeowner residential property, and litigation/motion practice in New York State Supreme Court for all other properties. As part of the process, Scott assists clients in petitioning their financing bank to expedite a reduction of tax escrows taking into account any property tax reductions.

Also, Scott assists clients in obtaining the exemptions available to property owners, including the Basic and Enhanced STAR Exemptions, Veterans and Cold War Exemptions, Senior Citizens Exemption, Disability Exemption, Home Improvement Property Tax Exemption, etc.

When considering initiating a commercial or residential property tax challenge, these are a few of the issues that property owners need to review:

  • What is the actual assessment on my property?
  • What is the market value that the municipality is taxing the property? A correct assessment should be based on the true market value applying a percentage, also known as a Residential Assessment Ratio or Equalization Rate (as determined by the municipality and New York State Office of Real Property Services) of market value.
  • What municipalities are taxing me? County? Town? City? Village? Many properties are assessed by multiple municipalities.
  • What are the filing periods for filing exemption applications, grievances and any appeals, as well as any local requirements for filing of financial statements on income producing property? This is a very important consideration, as municipalities require strict adherence to these filing periods and filing deadlines.
  • Is the property being fairly assessed?
    • For residential property, the assessment is based on the market value, taking into what other comparable properties in the neighborhood are selling. If challenging the property taxes on a residential property, be aware that any recent sales on the property, neighboring property sales, appraisals, market listings, new construction, etc. can be very relevant.
    • For commercial property, which is normally valued as income producing property, the assessment is based on a more complicated income capitalization approach, which in simple terms, applies to the income the property can be expected to earn and current market conditions to determine a present value. Accordingly if challenging the property taxes on a commercial property, you should be sure to marshal any Income & Expense Statements, lease abstracts, rent rolls, appraisals, etc. to prepare a case.
  • How long is the process? The length of these proceedings vary depending on the type of property, the municipality and local court procedures.
  • What are any anticipated costs and fees associated with the different type of tax certiorari proceedings?
  • If a property tax challenge is successful, am I likely to get future tax savings, or am I likely to get a refund for any overpayment of taxes? Am I likely to get a credit to be applied toward future taxes?

In addition to the firm’s representation of homeowners and property owners, Scott also represents certain municipalities, namely the City of Glen Cove and the Incorporated Village of Farmingdale, in defending their assessment roll from commercial property tax challenges and representing the municipalities’ interests in Article 78 litigation as they relate to tax certiorari.

Throughout the years, Scott has lectured on behalf of the Nassau County Bar Association at seminars for civic groups on property tax reduction procedures and strategies.