Grounds for Complaint – What You Can You Do to Grieve Your Assessment

When property owners disagree with the amount of their property assessments, Real Property Tax Services and New York State Department of Taxation & Finance provide avenues for them to grieve that assessment.

The property owner should not assume that an assessor, a Board of Assessment Review or a Hearing Officer would automatically know all of the laws and criteria needed to prove or disprove a grievance.

Do the research yourself and be prepared.  

The first step in grieving an assessment is to have what is called an "informal meeting" with the local assessor to discuss any disagreements or misunderstandings. Contrary to what some assessors may believe, the informal meetings can be held at any time of the year. This statement is taken from "The Job of the Assessor" as described by the New York State Department of Taxation & Finance.

The job of the assessor - Department of Taxation and Finance

The assessor is continually communicating with the public, answering questions, and dealing with concerns raised by taxpayers. Anyone can examine the assessment roll and property records at any time. However, between Taxable Status Day and the filing of the tentative roll (generally, March through May), it should be done by appointment.

There are timelines for filing exemptions and grievances for each taxable year. If the differences cannot be resolved in an informal meeting, there are four other avenues that can be taken.

The first step is to fill out an RP-524 form. This form consists of four pages. The first two pages are self explanatory. The third page gives you the four avenues to grieve the assessment. The final page contains areas for a representative, certification and stipulation. The State also has an RP-524 Instructions form to help understand each avenue.

Form RP-524:3/09:Complaint on Real Property Assessment ...

Form RP-524-Ins:3/09:General Information and Instructions for ...

Often it is unclear which avenue property owners should take to grieve their property assessment. In this section we will try to explain in detail the four avenues and which may be the most beneficial to the property owner.

Four Avenues to Grieve Assessment and What May Be the Most Beneficial to Property Owners

A. Unequal Assessment

This is undoubtedly the hardest to prove of the four Grounds for Complaint. Any comparable properties used for this type of grievance must come from the same assessment roll.

Unequal Assessment pertains to the percentage of value. If the property owner believes their property assessment is at a higher percentage of value it must be proven against all other properties on the same assessment roll. This may pertain to thousands of other properties. This is an almost impossible task, and you will also be going against New York State, who sets the uniform percentage of value or Equalization Rate for the entire tax roll.

The State does allow for a glimmer of hope in 1b on the RP-524 form and the last paragraph under Unequal Assessment on the RP-524 Instructions form:

The assessed value of real property improved by a one, two or three family residence is at a higher percentage of full (market) value than the assessed value of other residential property on the assessment roll or...

By this statement, a property owner only needs to prove a higher percentage of value by using as little as three other properties on the same assessment roll. This can be done by using comparable properties and making adjustments for differences as described in the pamphlet "How to Estimate the Market Value of Your Home" published by the NYS Department of Taxation & Finance and the Office of Real Property Tax Services. Help on this is provided on the 2021 Comparable Sales Analysis Adjustment Formula found under Resources on this website. After you have established a new adjusted full market value for the property being grieved, you can then calculate the higher percentage of value as described on the Adjustment Formula.

The hardest part of this type of grievance may be convincing an inexperienced assessor, Board of Assessment Review or Hearing Officer that the last paragraph and statement has completely different criteria to prove than the rest of the criteria for Unequal Assessment. Many assessors will not look past section #1 for Unequal Assessment and will assume the requirements that are stated for this section pertain to the entire section.

This is not true. If it were true it would state "all" and not "other" as it does in the first section for Unequal Assessment. Even if the grievance is proven, the property owner may need to continue through the processes of grievance by going through the assessor, the Board of Assessment Review and Small Claims Assessment Review. The decision eventually may rest on a personal opinion of the Hearing Officer who may not agree with the wording on the forms and state the criteria for the first part of Unequal Assessment is implied to be the same for the entire section and base the decision on being implied and not on the laws or current and accurate data which an assessment is to be based.

B. Excessive Assessment

Unlike Unequal Assessment, Excessive Assessment is much easier to prove. The property owner is not required to prove a higher percentage of value than all other properties on the same assessment roll. The comparable properties are not restricted to the same tax roll and can come from the local area. This means the comparable properties can come from adjacent towns or villages because appropriate Real Estate Markets can cross municipal boundaries. There are three different ways of grieving Excessive Assessment. They are Overvaluation, Incorrect Partial Exemption and Excessive Transition Assessment. The one most commonly used is Overvaluation.

1. Overvaluation:

A property owner only needs to prove the assessed value is higher than the full market value of the property. Property owners generally use these examples as means of proof.

 A recent appraisal.

 Recent sales of comparable properties.

A recent appraisal is a good source of proof if you already have one. An appraisal is not required and there is no need to spend the money to have one done. New York State Department of Taxation & Finance and the Office of Real Property Tax Services published and recommend a property owner use their pamphlet titled "How to Estimate the Market Value of Your Home" in place of spending the money for an appraisal. This website also provides additional help on comparable properties with our Comparable Sales Analysis Adjustment Formula located under Resources.

How to estimate the market value of your home - Department ...

2. Incorrect Partial Exemption:

If your grievance pertains to the denial of all or partial exemption, provide a copy of the application with your complaint. For further explanation, please see the link below.

Pertaining to the partial tax exemption on real property of ...  

3. Excessive Transition Assessment:

Cities, towns and villages certified by the Office of Real Property Tax Services as approved assessing units may adopt a system of transition assessments to 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 should contact your local assessor.

C. Unlawful Assessment

This is well explained on the RP-524 Instructions form.

Form RP-524-Ins:3/09:General Information and Instructions for ...    

D. Misclassification  

This is also well explained on the RP-524 Instructions form.

Form RP-524-Ins:3/09:General Information and Instructions for ...    

For more information on grieving by Unequal Assessment or Excessive Assessment, see the topics under their respective headings in the Resources section of this website. You may also want to refer to the Case Studies for actual cases that were won in Small Claims Assessment Review after being denied by the local assessors and Boards of Assessment Review.

October 2021