5 Questions: Real Estate Tax Certiorari
Insight from Industry Professionals

Albany Business Review
March 5, 2021
Vol. 47, No. 50, p.9

For the average person, what exactly is real estate tax certiorari?

Tax certiorari is the legal process by which a property owner challenges the tax assessment on a given property to prove that an assessor’s valuation is incorrect in an effort to reduce the property’s real estate taxes. While property owners, developers and managers are likely familiar with real estate tax certiorari proceedings, not many tackle the legal process, which is a missed opportunity for significant tax savings.

What can a commercial property owner do to lower its real estate tax bill?

With the right action plan, the tax certiorari process can effectively challenge questionable property assessments resulting in a meaningful reduction of the owner’s property taxes. Commercial property owners should consult an attorney with tax certiorari experience to determine if engaging in the certiorari process makes sense for their specific properties and, if so, maximize their tax savings. Too often property owners file for judicial review without first having proof of their property values, only to later find out that the tax savings, if any, achieved after judicial reduction of the assessment was not great enough to justify the costs of litigation. Property owners should work with experienced counsel on that cost-benefit analysis.

How does the process work?

The tax certiorari process, while seemingly straightforward, is not always simple. The statutory framework of the Real Property Tax Law sets forth various requirements that often serve as obstacles for property owners. The slightest variation from the requirements can result in the prohibition of judicial review of the applicable real property tax assessment and dismissal of the case. While the dates in the tax certiorari process vary from municipality to municipality, the key dates to remember are generally: the valuation date (July 1st of the previous year), the taxable status date (March 1st), tentative roll date (May 1st), grievance day (4th Tuesday in May), the final roll date (July 1st) and deadline to commence litigation (July 31st).

Does a property owner need to wait until May to address its assessment?

Absolutely not.  Having an appraisal or a theory of valuation based on comparable sales in early spring can make for a productive meeting with the assessor as he or she is preparing the municipality’s tentative assessment roll.  Assessors are swamped in late April and in May after the tentative roll is filed, but they are often readily available to meet informally in March and April prior to the completion of the tentative roll.  This is prime time to secure a significant assessment reduction without having to go through the administrative grievance process or file a case in Supreme Court.

How will the Covid-19 pandemic impact tax assessment values?

Great question.  Because the 2021 tax assessments will look back to the value of property on July 1, 2020, there is a compelling argument that commercial real estate values should be much lower given the fact that many businesses were shut down and operating at reduced capacity last July.  The same argument would not apply to residential properties, which are in the midst of a boom during the pandemic.  Property owners should hire an attorney with experience in tax certiorari proceedings to help formulate the best strategy tailored to their specific circumstances.

About Jake Lamme

Jake Lamme is an attorney who handles corporate and commercial litigation matters, as well as complex real estate tax, land use, and zoning matters for property owners and developers throughout New York.  In tax certiorari matters, Jake has successfully represented many clients through the intricacies of the tax certiorari process using his strengths in valuation analysis, litigation, and negotiation skills.  Contact Jake at (518) 675-7740 or jlamme@mclclaw.com to discuss the disposition or litigation of your property tax matter.

About Monaco Cooper Lamme & Carr, PLLC

MCLC is a law firm dedicated to providing exceptional legal services and unparalleled value while building rewarding and lasting client relationships. Our team comprises seasoned trial and transactional attorneys who are nationally recognized industry and legal authorities in a wide range of practices. For more information on our firm, visit mclclaw.com or contact our Marketing Director, Stacy A. Smith at ssmith@mclclaw.com.