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Volume 8 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 9

Opinions of Counsel index

Sales reporting (public inspection and copying) (investigation of fraudulent conveyances) - Real Property Tax Law, § 574; 9 NYCRR 191-2.4:

A party may not review real property transfer reports (EA-5217) for the purpose of investigating allegations of fraudulent conveyances of real property.

A representative of a bank which is alleging fraudulent conveyances of real property has asked to review Real Property Transfer Reports (EA-5217).

Subdivision 1-e of section 333 of the Real Property Tax Law provides that no county recording officer may accept for recording any conveyance of real property affecting land in New York unless accompanied by a transfer report form prescribed by the State Board of Equalization and Assessment. The statute specifies that the form must provide for certain information including a statement of the full sales price. Section 574 of the Real Property Tax Law, requires the county recording officer to transmit this information to assessors and to the State Board. Subdivision 5 of section 574 excludes such reports from public inspection or copying except for the purposes of administrative or judicial review:

Forms or reports filed pursuant to this section or section three hundred thirty-three of the real property law shall not be made available for public inspection or copying except for purposes of administrative or judicial review of assessments in accordance with rules promulgated by the state board. (Emphasis added].

State Board rules provide that an individual seeking to inspect transfer report forms must complete and sign an EA-5217-DCL form specifying the form(s) sought to be inspected or copied and certifying that inspection is sought for purposes of administrative or judicial review of assessments (9 NYCRR 191-2.4). These rules apply whether the individual is seeking to copy or merely to inspect the EA-5217 forms. The same rules apply no matter who the applicant may be.

These applicable statutory provisions were added to the law by chapter 751 of the Laws of 1980, an amendment which was before the Legislature for three years prior to enactment. The confidentiality provision of section 574 was not part of the first bill introduced in the Legislature in 1977. In 1978, confidentiality provisions were added to both the Senate and Assembly bills in response to an objection that the information required to be filed would become a public record and, being accessible as such, would result in an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the parties to the transfer.

The plain language of the statute is to the effect that the forms may be inspected or copied only “for purposes of administrative or judicial review of assessments” (emphasis added). “Administrative review” as used in section 574(5) means review of an assessed value by the local board of assessment review (RPTL, Article 5, Title 1-A). “Judicial review” means tax certiorari or small claims assessment review proceedings brought pursuant to Article 7 of the Real Property Tax Law.

Accordingly, it is our opinion that inspection or copying of Real Property Transfer Forms EA-5217 for purposes of litigation concerning the fraudulent conveyance of real property is not permissible since the assessed value of the property is not the subject of the litigation.

August 12, 1983
Revised December 1983 to incorporate renumbering of 9 NYCRR 191.5 as 9 NYCRR 191-2.4, effective December 15, 1983.

NOTE:  Opinion construes law prior to L.1993, c.257.