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Volume 3 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 50

Opinions of Counsel index

Real property, definition of (private sewer lines) - Real Property Tax Law, § 102(12)(e):

Sewer lines are real property. Use or disuse of such property will, however, affect valuation and such consideration should be reflected on the assessment role.

Our opinion has been requested regarding a company, whose improvement is located outside town limits, which installed a private sewer line running from its improvement to a sewer treatment plant which is located within the town limits. That portion of the line which is located within the town has been assessed. The line is no longer in use by the company, and the town has received a letter of protest from the company requesting the elimination of this assessment and a refund of taxes paid for the past several years.

The sewer lines in question, whether or not they are being used, constitute real property pursuant to paragraph (e) of subdivision 12 of section 102 of the Real Property Tax Law, and the assessor is therefore required to assess the same. The fact that the lines are no longer in use does not affect their status as real property but could, however, have some effect upon their valuation. Ordinarily, when in use the pipes are valued on a cost basis. If the pipes have been abandoned in place and there is little or no likelihood that they will be used in the future, either on a permanent or stand-by basis, they would have little or no value. However, if they are not used on a permanent basis but are left in place to be used on a stand-by basis if ever needed, they would have some value, however nominal it might be.

Therefore, if it is determined that the lines have been abandoned in place with no intent for future use, even on a stand-by basis, it is the opinion of this office that the assessment should be discontinued. In such case, however, the property record card should indicate the existence of these lines and they should be returned to the assessment roll in the event they are in fact used in the future. If it is found that there is an intent that the lines be used on a stand-by basis in case of emergencies, it is the opinion of this office that they should remain upon the assessment roll and valued at their salvage value.

In any event, the town is not required to pay any rebate to the company on the basis of prior years’ assessments. A property owner is entitled to a refund only if he has pursued his administrative and judicial remedies pursuant to Articles 5 and 7 of the Real Property Tax Law.

February 23, 1973