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Volume 7 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 69

Opinions of Counsel index

Assessment review (agency) (prospective purchaser) (authorization - owner’s initials) - General Construction Law, § 46; Real Property Tax Law, §§ 512, 1524:

A prospective purchaser of real property may be an “authorized agent” of an owner of real property for assessment review purposes. The owner’s written authorization may be indicated merely by his initials on the proper part of the complaint form.

An assessment complaint (Form EA 512) submitted by a prospective purchaser of real property was rejected by a board of assessment review due to the applicant’s failure to furnish the board with a sales agreement or a signed authorization from the seller. As originally filed, the form was signed by the buyer only. However, at the hearing on grievance day, at the request of the board of assessment review, the would-be seller (the owner) made an appearance and initialled the part of the complaint set aside for the designation of a representative (EA 512, Part IV).

Section 512 of the Real Property Tax Law, which relates to the hearing of complaints by boards of assessment review, provides that an assessment complaint form shall be a statement “made by the person whose property is assessed, or by some person authorized in writing by the complainant or his officer or agent to make such statement who has knowledge of the facts stated therein.” Since administrative review is a condition precedent to judicial review of assessments, the standing requirement of section 512 is deemed to be the same as the standing requirement of section 704, which governs judicial review (4 Op. Counsel SBEA No. 87).

“Any person claiming to be aggrieved” may seek judicial review of an assessment after seeking administrative review (Real Property Tax Law, § 704). An aggrieved person is “one whose pecuniary interests are or may be adversely affected” (People ex rel. Bingham Operating Corp. v. Eyrich, 265 App.Div. 562, 40 N.Y.S.2d 33, at 35 (3d Dept., 1943)). Under this criterion, standing has been found for a mortgagee not obligated to pay taxes (Matter of Walter, 75 N.Y. 354 (1878)) and a lessee (McLean’s Dept. Stores v. Commissioner of Assessment, 2 A.D.2d 98, 153 N.Y.S.2d 342 (3d Dept., 1956)). The court in the Bingham Operating case, supra, found standing for a corporation which purchased a parcel subsequent to the filing of the final roll where the seller had previously sought administrative review.

The board of assessment review must determine that the complainant is an aggrieved person. As mentioned, section 512 requires a statement “signed” by the owner or the owner’s agent. General Construction Law, section 46, provides:

The term signature includes any memorandum, mark or sign, written, printed, stamped, photographed, engraved or otherwise placed upon any instrument or writing with intent to execute or authenticate such instrument or writing.

This section has been interpreted to encompass initials as acceptable forms of signature (In re Mack’s Will, 21 A.D.2d 205, 250 N.Y.S.2d 177 (3d Dept., 1964)). Thus, regardless of whether the prospective purchaser, absent a contract for sale, was himself an “aggrieved person”, the board of assessment review had before it a statement, including a declaration of agency “signed” by the owner. Indeed, the form of signature appears to be at the instigation of the board itself. The board may not now claim a lack of jurisdiction over the complaint (but cf., § 1524(2)(b)).

July 17, 1980