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Volume 3 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 94

Opinions of Counsel index

Assessments, generally (notice of increase) - Real Property Tax Law, § 510:

The purpose of section 510, which requires the assessor to provide a notice of increased assessments to property owners, is to provide “actual” notice of increase, and such requirement is not satisfied by the holding of “informal review sessions”.

We have received correspondence wherein it is stated that several towns in a county have completed reassessment programs which will be implemented with the assessment rolls to be tentatively completed on June 1, 1973, that the level of assessment will probably be substantially increased in such towns, and that each property owner will receive a detailed letter concerning the reassessment program prior to such tentative completion. Each property owner will be afforded an opportunity to attend informal meetings to review the appraised value of his property. The question is whether the assessors, under such circumstances, are required to comply with the provisions of section 510 of the Real Property Tax Law, which requires that a notice of increased assessment be mailed to each property owner in towns between the 1st and 5th day of June, specifying the assessed valuation for that year and the previous year and the net increase in the assessment.

The detailed letter which will be mailed to property owners prior to tentative completion and the “informal review sessions” which will be held prior to tentative completion does not relieve the assessor of the duty to mail the notices required by section 510. The purpose of such notice is to advise the property owner of the “actual” increase in the assessment of his property as it appears on the assessment roll as tentatively completed.

Although said section specifically provides that the failure to mail any such notice or the failure of the owner to receive the same shall not prevent the levy, collection and enforcement of the payment of the taxes on such real property, and although there are a number of town assessors who do not strictly comply with this section, it would appear to be in the best interest of the town, especially following a revaluation, to mail such notices between the statutory dates and in the statutory form. It could be argued in a proceeding attacking the validity of the entire assessment roll that the provision concerning the failure to mail such notice was intended to prevent a few property owners from contesting the validity of their assessments upon the mere allegation that they did not receive the notice, and was not intended to prevent property owners from contesting the validity of an entire assessment roll upon proof of the willful and wholesale failure of the assessor to mail such notices following a townwide revaluation program and a general increase in the level of assessment as a result of such program. While it is the opinion of this office that any such argument would be unsuccessful, the town should avoid costly litigation wherein this question could be raised by compliance with the statutory requirement.

Apri1 18, 1973