Challenging Your Assessment: What You Can Do if Your Assessment is Incorrect
NOTE: For forms and instruction to file a SCAR petition see the bottom of this page.
You have 3 options for challenging your assessment:
1. Informal Hearing to meet with your assessor to go over what you feel is incorrect.
2. Go before the Board of Assessment Review on the designated day in May.
3. File a Small Claims Assessment Review (SCAR) to petition the court for review of their property assessment before a specially trained hearing officer.
1. Schedule an Informal Hearing With Your Assessor
You can meet with your assessor any time of the year. However, if it is past the "grievance day" in May any changes that are made will not take effect until the next taxable year. Most informal hearings are done from the time you receive your new tax bill (the time when a tentative tax toll is made public) to the time when The Board of Assessment Review meets. The is usually from May 1st to the fourth Tuesday in May.
Before you go:
- Write down what you feel may not be correct. This could be as small as a clarification of a simple question. The assessor is there to help you and answer your questions. You don’t need to view them as your enemy.
- Collect some supporting evidence. If you believe your assessment is incorrect, collect all the supporting evidence you can to show the assessor. This can be with recent sales, appraisals, comparisons, remodeling...anything you believe will help. See more further down this page under Documenting Your Case. Caution: see FAQs on Appraisals before taking an appraisal into the assessor.
- Download, fill in everything except Part SIX, print the Grievance form RP-524 and bring the form with you when you meet with the assessor. Be sure to make a copy to keep in your files.
During the Informal Hearing
- Do not be afraid to challenge your assessment. It is your right.
- If you and the assessor come to an agreement at the informal hearing, and you are 100% satisfied with the outcome, you can sign Part Six: Stipulation on the RP-524 form.
- If you have doubt and disagree with the assessor and are not 100% satisfied, do not sign "Part Six: Stipulation" on the form RP-524. You have another option and another chance to prove your case. Let the assessor know that you would like to appear before the Board of Assessment Review on Grievance Day.
- Before you leave the assessor’s office, ask for copies of the comparison properties and sales they may have used to determine your property assessment. The assessor should give you copies without any hesitation.
2. Go Before the Board of Assessment Review in May
- Check with your assessor to confirm Grievance Day in your community
- Then make an appointment to present your case.
Grievance Day is the deadline for submitting Form RP-524 and the day that the Board of Assessment Review meets to hear complaints. Any changes made to your assessment after the Grievance Day will not take effect until the next assessment year. In most communities, Grievance Day is the fourth Tuesday in May. However, there are exceptions:
- Cities and towns that share an assessor can adopt different Grievance Days between the fourth Tuesday in May and the second Tuesday in June
- New York City - the Assessment Review Commission meets throughout the year, but complaints must be filed by March 15 for Class One properties and March 1 for all other properties
- Nassau County - the Assessment Review Commission meets throughout the year, but complaints must be filed by March 1
- Other cities - dates vary, contact your assessor or city clerk for the date
- Suffolk County - town BAR's meet on the third Tuesday in May
- Westchester County - town BARs meet on the third Tuesday in June
- Villages that assess property - typically, the BAR meets on the third Tuesday of February; however, dates can vary - check with your village assessor or village clerk
Prepare your case before the Board of Assessment Review
Do not worry about going before the Board of Assessment Review. They are people from your community who are here to help you and want to do what is correct both for you and the assessor. Although the assessor is always assumed to be correct, they may make mistakes in this complicated system. You have the best chance to convince the Board in your favor by presenting additional information supporting your case. You do not have to show the additional information to the assessor before you bring it to the Board.
Steps to take before your appointment with the Board of Assessment Review
- Fill out, print the completed form RP-524 and bring it with you but do not sign Part Six. This 4-page form comes with instructions.
Here are some tips on how to fill out the form:
Part One: General Information (numbers 1 - 7)
- Numbers 1 - 4 are self-explanatory.
- Number 5: Property Identification. This can be found on your latest tax bill or on the tax roll it will appear above your name. It is generally a large number that may look like one of these 00000-00-000000 or 000.00-0-00.0. You can also ask your assessor for it.
- Number 6: This also will appear on the tax roll or you can ask your assessor for it. It is the breakdown of your property between the land you own and your residence.
- Number 7: This is one of the most important questions on the form. It is what you believe your property is worth based on your research of comparison properties. If you truly believe it should be lower and can prove it, indicate the amount on this line. NOTE. Do not put in just any number in the blank. Some people try to go just a little below what the assessor has and hope they may get lowered to that. This is important because even if the Board of Assessment Review feels your assessment could be lower than the amount you put on the form, they are bound by law to go only as low as you have on the form.
Part Two: Information Necessary to Determine the Value of Property
- Fill out this page the best you can.
- A reminder on appraisals. Appraisals are just one person’s estimate on what they believe your property is worth. Appraisals can both be helpful and hurtful depending on what you are trying to prove.
Part Three: Grounds for Complaint Categories
- A: Unequal Assessment:
1. For homeowners this may be the best way to prove your case. It is much easier to prove unequal assessment than it is to prove excessive, unlawful or misclassification.
Check box "1a": You are trying to prove that your assessed value is at a higher percentage of value than the assessed value of other real property on the assessment roll. Do not select "1b." The difference between "1a" and "1b" is this: With "1a" you only have to prove your case against a few other assessments. With "1b" you have to prove your case against all real property on the assessment roll."
2. Your best choice here is d. or “other.” This is where you can attach all the supporting documentation that you have gathered to prove your case.
3: Fill in the estimated market value you have determined it should be. This is the total of the land and the residence. (the value of property you wrote down from Part one #7.) This is your "estimation" of market value of the property as of the valuation date, which is the date you filled out the form.
HOWEVER: if you put down what you believe is your estimation of the market value of your property you may be contradicting yourself on #4 (below).
Here’s why: Let's say you have a property with a market value of $200,000 which is what you put in the blank on Part One #7 and Part Three #3. If you are trying to prove unequal assessment you would need to fill in Part Three #4 "Complainant believes the assessment should be reduced to______" ($180,000). It may appear that you are contradicting yourself because you already said your house is worth $200,000. It may be true your house is worth $200,000, however it can still be unequally assessed (and you have the evidence to prove it) when compared to other similar properties in the same taxing jurisdiction.
4: This is the value you believe your assessment should be and have the additional paperwork to prove so. (See above. This amount can be lower than your estimate of fair market value if can prove that you are not fairly assessed compared to other properties.)
- Parts B, C, & D (Excessive, Unlawful or Misclassification) are difficult to prove and furthermore apply to other specific circumstances such as tax exemption.
Part Four: Designation of Representative
You have a right to designate a representative if you choose. However, it is always best to come before the Board of Assessment Review in person so you can answer their questions directly or add information if needed. Always keep in mind that a representative may not be able to answer some of the questions asked as well as you can.
Part Five: Certification
If you believe all is true to the best of your knowledge, sign this area.
Part Six: Stipulation
The first time you may see this is at the informal meeting with the assessor.
- Never sign this unless you are 100% satisfied with the amount that you and the assessor have agreed upon. If you do not agree with the assessor in the Informal Hearing do not sign the form.
- If you do sign this, you cannot go before the Board of Assessment Review. Your assessment is final for that year.
- If you disagree with the assessor your case can go before the Board of Assessment Review.
- The decision the Board of Assessment Review makes will be final unless you decide to fill out a SCAR form. In that case, it will be the judge that makes the final decision.
Make a copy of this form and keep it for your records. Take the original and give it to your assessor or a member of the Board of Assessment Review.
Documenting Your Case
This is where the work begins. The more you are committed to doing the work the better chance you will succeed in getting your property tax lowered. See NY State Real Property Tax Web sites to obtain information on your property.
Since you will be collecting considerably information it might be helpful to purchase two three-ring binders with sleeves to store and arrange your information. The following general information will take you through the process of preparing your case before the Board of Assessment Review.
- Page 1 - Table of Contents.
- Page 2 - Your Introduction. Briefly explain your case. Show what your current assessment is and the amount of assessment reduction you are seeking.
- Page 3 - Your current town’s "Property / Assessment Information" sheet. Take the following information from your county's real property website. Enter your Property ID number. This shows what your land and your house are assessed along with the total amount of taxes you pay.
- Page 4 - Your current "School Property / Assessment Information" sheet. This shows whatever exemptions you may be getting for the school tax. (STAR, Veterans etc.) You can find this on the tax rolls for your town or recent tax bill.
- Page 5 - Your "Property Description Report." This contains information on the square feet, structure, sales and improvements of your property.
- Page 6 and on - show photos of the interior and exterior of your residence. Show what is wrong with the residence, the age, the deteriorations etc. You cannot take too many photos. The more the better. This is exactly what the Board of Assessment Review needs to decide in your favor.
In your binder, write a description page explaining what each photo is and the current condition (how old, deteriorating etc.) arrange the inside photos first and then the exterior photos next.
It is recommended that you bring at least a minimum of six house comparisons to the Board of Assessment Review. To do that, be prepared to compare up to 15 comparable houses to get at least six that will help you make a good case. They do not need to be the exact same size or model as yours. They just need to be in your area or taxing jurisdiction.
You will not be able to go onto anyone's property so take a photo of the front of the house and any additional buildings from the road. Write down the house number and the street name. Take photos of at least fifteen comparison houses. Some of these may not work in your favor after you do the comparison so you will not want to use them.
After you have taken the photos you will want to go back to the same website from which you obtained your information. Enter the street name. This will give you all the houses on that street. Match up the house number to the ones you have. Go to Property Description and print out all the information on that house. (Owner, Inventory, Improvements & Reports) Do this with every comparison house you have.
Now you have photos and information that align, start with your property and use the Inventory Page showing Structure, Area, Utilities and Improvements. Take the outside photo of your house and the outside photo of your first comparison house and put them on the same page one on top of the other. Do the same thing for the other comparison houses.
Now you will need an Itemized Breakdown Sheet. For each comparison house make a side by side list of your house and theirs showing tax map ID, building style, square feet, number of baths, bedrooms, kitchens, fireplaces, overall condition, overall grade, year built, basement type, garages and number of stories. This information is obtained from the "Report" and "Inventory" pages from the same county website where you obtained the information on your property.
Looking only at the square living footage and total assessment one may think the owner of House Comparison One is way over assessed compared to Mr. & Mrs. John Doe. The truth of the matter will come out in an Argument Sheet.
An Argument Sheet is where you can compare "apples to apples." It is the "Meat & Potatoes" in your effort to get your assessment lowered. Anything that your property does not have but the comparison property does have, take the estimated cost of each item and total them. (Ex. attached garage, paved driveway, covered porch, second bathroom, brick siding, shutters and land difference). You can get this information from a general contractor. Subtract that from the total assessment. Now factor in the age. If your house was built in 1980 and theirs was built in 2010 there are 30 years’ difference in age. Make the argument that in 30 years there were advancements in window technology, insulation, vinyl siding etc. We all know that everything depreciates so why is it not considered in our assessments? Now take a 1% depreciation factor on your house each year for the past 30 years. Figure that in and see how your two assessments compare now "apples to apples.” If it shows you are assessed higher than your comparison house use that one. Do this with all your comparison houses.
So now you have a house that at first glance was not even a choice for a comparison. John Doe's assessment was at $109,700 for 1708 square feet and House Comparison One was $146,700 for 1376 square feet. However, when you do the work and compare "apples to apples," John Doe was way over assessed by the current system.
Enter all your information in order into your binder. Make a second copy. One for you and one for the Board of Assessment Review.
Land Comparison Difference
There may also be inconsistencies as to how land is assessed. In a village or city land values that appears to be equitable may not be what you think. For example, when comparing two primary land values for the Town of Macedon ranging from .084 acres to 1.07 acres it can be quite different. At first look, a primary acre of .84 assessed at $27,000 and another of 1.07 assessed at $28,400 look equitable. However, if you were to break it down and divide the price by .01 acres you will find out that the one assessed for $28,400 is assessed at a rate of $265.42 per .01 acres and the one assessed at $27,000 is assessed at a rate of $321.43 per .01 acres. This in fact is an over assessment of $4,700 for the parcel that is .84 acres.
You now have adequate information to bring to the Board of Assessment Review to make the case to lower your assessment.
One More Opportunity
If the Board of Assessment Review does not lower your assessment and you feel you were not fairly treated, see section #3 below for filing a Small Claims Assessment Review. You can file a Small Claims Assessment Review (see below) to petition the court for review of your property assessment before a specially trained hearing officer.
3. File a Small Claims Assessment Review (SCAR)
If the Board of Assessment Review does not lower your assessment and you feel you were not fairly treated, you still have another option.
You can fill out a Small Claims Assessment Review form (SCAR). 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.
PLEASE NOTE: If a judge orders a reduction in your assessment (no matter how small) you will NOT be able to grieve your assessment for the next assessment year.
The Small Claim Assessment Review application must be filed within 30 days after the final tax roll is filed. The homeowner can be represented by anyone to whom they give permission.
Article 7 vs SCAR (RPTL 739) - these are two different ways of grieving your assessment.
- Article 7 is used mainly by businesses. Homeowners can represent themselves but are often represented by attorneys due to the complexity of the supreme court and legal system.
- People who are not attorneys cannot represent a homeowner in their case. The cost can be substantial due to the attorney's expenses.