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Challenging Your Assessment

In New York State, you may contest the assessment of your property in one of three ways:
  1. Informal review
  2. Administrative review
  3. Judicial review
You can only challenge the assessed value on your property. You cannot challenge your tax bill amount unless you believe there has been a clerical or mathematical error. More information on contesting your assessment is available through New York State Tax and Finance.

Informal Review
Your local assessor is an appointed official in your city or town who has the job of setting assessments on every parcel of real property within their municipality. The assessed value placed on your property is meant to represent the market value, or a percentage of market value, on your property. Not every municipality assesses property at 100% of market value. Some municipalities have a lower Level of Assessment (LOA) and assess properties at a fraction of market value. In either case, if you believe that your assessor's estimate of value on your home is incorrect, and you have evidence to support your claim, then your first step would be to meet with your assessor at any time before the filing of the tentative assessment roll on May 1st. The assessor is able to change assessments at any time before the tentative assessment roll has been filed. Once the tentative assessment roll has been filed on May 1st, you still have the ability to meet with the assessor and stipulate to a value up until Grievance Day (typically the fourth Tuesday in May).

It's important to note that the assessor only has control over the assessed value on your property and the law requires it to be their estimate of market value or a fraction thereof. Taxable values can only be lowered by granting exemptions and tax bill amounts are not within the control of your assessor. If you feel that your assessment accurately reflects the market value of your home, but that your tax burden is too high, you should address this with the jurisdictions that impose property taxes on your property (e.g. the county legislature, city council, town board, special district, or school district).

Administrative Review
If you choose not to meet informally with your assessor, or you do not get the desired result at that stage of the process, your next step would be to meet with your local Board of Assessment Review in May. This board is a quasi-judicial body appointed by your city or town, generally made up of local residents with a background in real estate or knowledge of property values and they are trained to hear assessment grievance cases and determine whether to lower assessments. The board generally meets on the fourth Tuesday in May, but that date can vary by local law. You do not need an attorney or any legal counsel for this stage of review, but it is wise to have sufficient evidence to support your claim.

Who can file a grievance?

Any person who is an "aggrieved party" or person with a financial interest in the taxes on a property has the right to file a grievance.

Only the assessment on the current tentative assessment roll can be grieved - you can't grieve assessments from prior years. There is no cost to grieve an assessment and it does not require you to hire a lawyer.

Filing a grievance form

Your must file a grievance on form RP-524 (instructions) with your local Board of Assessment Review (BAR) or your local Assessor any time after the filing of the Tentative Roll (May 1st) up to and including Grievance Day (between 4th Tuesday in May and second Tuesday in June - confirm this date with your city or town). Only grievances submitted on this form are allowed by law. This form must be filled out in its entirety and signed by either you or your representative - the BAR cannot fill this form in for you. You should also submit any and all evidence to support your claim for a reduced assessment along with this form.

All grievances must be in the hands of the BAR on their scheduled grievance day, if you fail to file a grievance by this deadline you will lose access to assessment review for the entire year.

Stipulating a reduced assessment

On or before grievance day you and your local assessor may stipulate (agree) to a new assessed value. This requires you to sign part 6 of the RP-524 form with your assessor. If you enter into a stipulation, you may not ask the board of assessment review for a further reduction in your assessment. If the agreed upon assessment appears on the final assessment roll, you will not be allowed to seek a lower assessment through judicial review.

Grieving before the BAR

Your local BAR may require a personal appearance from you in order to grieve your assessment or they may rule on your case using the form and evidence submitted. In any case, you have the right to be present at the hearing and provide testimony and information before the board. Your assessor is also required to be present at this hearing to defend his or her assessment of your property.

This board is made up of 3-5 members from your local community and is not designed to be an adversarial proceeding. Please be aware that the BAR can only grant a reduction in your assessment and they have no control over your taxes. Under the law the assessment is considered proper unless proven otherwise. You will need to convince this board of whatever claim you selected on the RP-524 form using substantial evidence to show the assessment is improper.

The board may request additional evidence from your or your representative. You are required to provide them with any reasonably requested information and failure to do so can be grounds for dismissal of your grievance and no further judicial review of your assessment would be granted.

Notification after grievance

If you timely file a RP-524 form with your local board of assessment review they are required to send you a notice of determination in the mail. This notice (form RP-525) will describe your reduction (if any) along with other information about your grievance. If this notice did not reduce your assessment to what you asked for you have the right to move on to judicial review of the assessment. If your claim was dismissed due to willful neglect on your part then the courts may find no further judicial review will be allowed.

Note that if you stipulated to a value by completing part 6 of the RP-524 form along with your assessor, you will not receive a notice of determination in the mail.

Judicial Review
On July 1st, the final assessment roll is published that contains final assessed values that will be used for all upcoming tax levies. If your assessment was not lowered in May by the board of assessment review, your final step would be to pursue judicial review of your assessment. In order to pursue Judicial Review of your assessment, you must have gone through the administrative review process and met with the board of assessment review in May. There are two levels of judicial review available:
  1. Small Claims Assessment Review (SCAR): an option available to most homeowners that own and occupy a one, two, or three-family residence used exclusively for residential purposes.
  2. Tax Certiorari proceedings in State Supreme Court: for all other property this is the only option for judicial review. To pursue this option, you should contact an attorney.