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Volume 10 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 23

Opinions of Counsel index

Senior citizens exemption (ownership requirement) (residence sold and replaced - transfer of exemption) - Real Property Tax Law, § 467:

While new section 467(9) of the Real Property Tax Law allows a senior citizen, who sells his or her residence and purchases a replacement, to apply promptly and receive an exemption on that replacement property, this does not excuse the property owner from satisfying the length of ownership requirement.

We have been asked to explain a perceived inconsistency between two 1995 amendments (chapters 409 and 410) to the senior citizens exemption (Real Property Tax Law, § 467). While chapter 409 reduces the length of ownership requirement from 24 to 12 months, it is suggested that chapter 410 allows purchasers to obtain an exemption immediately upon acquisition of title, in disregard of the 12 month requirement, so long as they apply promptly for the exemption. We believe that the two amendments may and should be read so as to avoid this result. {1}

First, effective January 1, 1996, section 467(3)(b) of the RPTL is amended to reduce the length of ownership requirement of the statute from 24 to 12 consecutive months (i.e., each reference to “twenty-four” in that paragraph has been changed to “twelve”). Second, effective October 1, 1995, new section 467(9) {2}  provides another exception to the requirement in section 467(5) that applications for the exemption be filed by taxable status date. {3}

Nevertheless, both section 467(9)(a), which pertains to purchases after the levy of taxes, and section 467(9)(b), which pertains to purchases after taxable status date but before levy, apply to “a person who meets the requirements for an exemption pursuant to this section . . .” (subds. (9)(a)(i), (9)(b)(i)). To satisfy the statutory requirements for the exemption, the applicant must own the property for the requisite period: again, after January 1, 1996, one year. Consequently, while new section 467(9) provides a mandatory exception to section 467(5)’s taxable status date filing requirement, it does not supersede section 467(3)’s length of ownership requirement.

Instead, we read new section 467(9) as pertaining mainly to the senior citizen, who previously owned real property, received a senior citizens exemption thereon, but who sold that property and purchased replacement property. Under prior law, the exemption on his or her former property would have been terminated as provided in section 520 of the RPTL, but the senior citizen would have been obliged to wait until the next taxable status date to apply for an exemption on that replacement property. In some situations, this meant that the senior citizen might not receive the exemption until a year or more after the new acquisition, notwithstanding that he or she had the exemption on the prior property (see, § 467(3)(b)). It is that result which we believe the Legislature was intending to avoid in its enactment of chapter 410.

November 29, 1995

{1}  It is a fundamental rule of statutory construction that all parts of a statute are to be construed together and harmonized (McKinney’s Statutes, §§ 97, 98).

{2}  Another section 467(9), added by chapter 378 of the Laws of 1995, effective January 1, 1996, provides that the senior citizens exemption may be granted when property is held in trust if the trust beneficiary would qualify therefor. [Editor’s note: this subdivision has been renumbered to be subdivision 10 (L.1996, c.568, § 3).]

{3}  There are other local option exceptions to the requirement of annual filing by taxable status date (i.e., subd. 5-a [filings by grievance day where delay is due to death of near relative or illness of applicant or near relative]; subd. 6(b), (c) [affidavit in lieu of renewal application]; subd. 8 [filings of renewal application by grievance day]).