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Volume 9 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 81

Opinions of Counsel index

Senior citizens exemption (ownership requirement) (exception for devise or bequest) - Real Property Tax Law, § 467:

Where an individual receiving the senior citizens exemption dies and title to the parcel passes by devise or bequest to another person, who maintains a primary residence in the parcel, and is otherwise eligible for the senior citizens exemption, the exemption should be continued.

We have been asked if a senior citizen, who has obtained title to property through the will of her late mother, is “immediately eligible” for the senior citizens exemption. We have been advised that the now deceased mother was receiving the senior citizens exemption at the time of her death and that the daughter qualifies for the exemption in all respects, except that she has held title to the property for less than two years.

Section 467(3)(b) of the Real Property Tax Law (RPTL) provides that no exemption may be granted unless title to the property has been vested in the owner for at least 24 consecutive months. There are several exceptions to this rule, (e.g., inter-spousal transfers), including:

Where, upon or subsequent to the death of an owner or owners, title to property which as of the date of such death was exempt from taxation under such provisions, becomes vested, by virtue of devise or descent from the deceased owner or owners, or by transfer by any other person or persons who, at the time of such death, maintained such property as a primary residence, the requirement of this paragraph that the title of the property shall have been vested in the owner or one of the owners for such period of twenty-four consecutive months shall be deemed satisfied.

This quoted language was added to section 467(3)(b) by chapter 298 of the Laws of 1988. The memorandum in support of that law explains its purpose:

In addition, the City [of New York] also favors an amendment allowing cohabitants of property enjoying senior citizen benefits, who receive title upon the death of the owner, to be deemed to have held title for a period continuous with that of the deceased owner, provided they meet all of the other requirements for the program. Such a provision would prevent a hardship from occurring for those who benefit from the program but do not acquire title until after the original owner’s death (Memorandum of Legislative Representative of City of New York, printed at McKinney’s 1988 Session Laws of New York, pp. 2010-2011).

In the instant inquiry, because (1) the woman’s late mother was receiving a senior citizens exemption at the time of her death, (2) the woman resided in her mother’s house at the time of her mother’s death, (3) the woman now has sole title to the property, and (4) the other statutory criteria (such as income) are satisfied, the exemption should be continued.

April 29, 1991