In most towns in Sullivan County, the town’s Board of Assessment Review holds their annual ‘grievance day’ on the last Tuesday of May, which this year is May 26th. That’s coming up fast, and if you’re planning to grieve your taxes you should start preparing now, particularly if you want to get an appraisal or hire someone to handle the grievance for you. Even if you plan to handle the grievance yourself (and most people do), you should start getting your ducks in a row now.
I have a page on Property Taxes in Sullivan County that has some information on assessment grievances and links to resources to help you understand the process. The key thing you need to decide is the reason for your grievance — either an excessive assessment or an unequal assessment. That drives the information you need to collect to support your case. For an excessive assessment case, you need to collect information on the sales price of similar houses to yours to show that the Full Market Value is above that, and therefore your assessment doesn’t reflect the current market value. (Excessive can also be used if there has been a material change in your property that has reduced it’s value.) For an unequal assessment case, you need to look at the assessments of other similar houses in the town and show that your house is assessed unequally to those houses. This is a simplistic sound bite for the grievance process, but is the crux of it. It can take some time to collect the information you need to support your case. (There is a third basis, unlawful, but that’s rarely used.)
It isn’t sufficient to just say “My taxes are too high.” The assessment grievance process doesn’t directly deal with taxes; it’s only about the assessed value. Your grievance claim is that your assessment is either incorrect or unjust, and the onus is on the property owner to support that claim. I sit on my town’s Board of Assessment Review, and in my experience, the most common reason for the denial of a grievance is that the owner has failed to supply any evidence for the claim. The BAR can’t do that work for you.
While you can wait for grievance day to file a grievance, I strongly suggest you make an appointment with your town’s assessor and go in and discuss your assessment. You may be able to arrive at a mutually agreeable number and not have to go in front of the BAR. If not, you can then go the formal hearing route.
You can file a grievance and choose whether to appear in person or not. I think it’s a good idea to show up if you can. It gives the BAR the opportunity to ask questions and help clarify your claim. If you’re not there, they can only decide based on what’s on the form. If there’s a technical error, the BAR also give you the opportunity to correct it.
If the outcome of your grievance claim is unsatisfactory, you do have the follow-on option to pursue your case in court. But you cannot go directly to court without first making your case to the Board of Assessment Review as I understand the process.
If you’re thinking about filing a grievance this year, call your town’s assessor to ask about the process, the date and time of the BAR hearing (since the last Tuesday in May is not written in stone) and where to get the correct forms. Then get familiar with the process and get your ducks in order.
P.S. Sorry, I don’t handle grievance claims. First, I can’t go to BAR hearings in other towns because I sit on my town’s BAR, and have to be at that hearing. If someone’s bought a house through me, I will help them think through their filing (if it’s not in the Town of Delaware, which would be a conflict), but it’s not a service I offer on the ‘open market’.