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Volume 2 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 116

Opinions of Counsel index

Separate assessment (contiguous and noncontiguous parcels of land) - Real Property Tax Law, § 502; 9 NYCRR 185.1:

Where parcels of land are contiguous, an assessor, upon his own discretion, may separately assess a portion of that parcel. However, where the land is noncontiguous the assessor must separately assess the property as two separate parcels.

Our opinion has been requested as to whether an assessor may separately assess property consisting of a farm and a woodlot separated by about a mile from the farm. Until two or three years prior, this had all been part of an original farm owned by the grantor.

Pursuant to section 500 of the Real Property Tax Law, on or before taxable status day annually, the assessors are required to ascertain by diligent inquiry all the real property located within their assessing units and the names of the owners thereof. Section 502 of the Real Property Tax Law, concerning the form of the assessment roll, provides in part that provision shall be made with respect to each separately assessed parcel of real property for the entry in appropriate columns of the names of the owners, last known owner or reputed owner and a description sufficient to identify the same, including the surnames of the abutting property owners and the names of the abutting streets or highways, and a column for the entry with respect to each separately assessed parcel of the assessed valuation of the land exclusive of any improvements followed by a column for the entry of the total assessed valuation. Real Property Tax Law, section 102, subdivision 11 provides that “. . . ‘parcel’ means a separately assessed lot, parcel, piece or portion of real property.”

Where there is separate ownership of the land and of the improvements thereon, the law will tolerate separate assessments to their respective owners. However, whether or not this is to be done is within the discretion of the assessors, and they cannot be compelled by others to do so (see, 21 Op.State Compt. 89). Similarly, in the absence of any authority to the contrary, we are of the opinion that under carefully considered circumstances determined on a case by case basis, an assessor may separately assess a portion of a real property parcel if such portion is capable of being adequately described on an assessment roll and the assessor chooses to do so. In such case the discretion rests with the assessor.

However, if the farm and the woodlot are noncontiguous, the assessor is required to separately assess the property as two parcels. In this connection your attention is called to the Rules and Regulations for the Preparation and Maintenance of Tax Maps for Real Property Assessment and Taxation Administration promulgated by this Board in November, 1971. These rules provide that a land parcel is a term used interchangeably with a lot and that a lot means a contiguous land area (9 NYCRR 185.1).

February 27, 1973