Tax Certiorari FAQs

Answers to common questions about our services

Tax certiorari is the legal process by which the courts review a real property assessment. Generically speaking, it encompasses the entire assessment review process from filing a grievance complaint with the local Board of Assessment Review through judicial review of the assessment.

Assessments in Suffolk County are established by the assessor(s) of each of the ten towns and are intended to represent the full or fractional market value of the property. However, not every assessment in every town is reviewed annually. Generally, only the assessments of properties that have undergone or are undergoing some physical change will see a change in assessment. Therefore, from year to year, the overwhelming majority of assessments remain unchanged and most assessments date back to the year the property was either first improved or last renovated.

All towns in Suffolk County, except Shelter Island and Southampton, assess property at a percentage of full market value. The percentage for each town is established each year by the New York State Office of Real Property Services. The percentage of full market value by which each town assesses property varies with most towns assessing at less than 10% of full value.

Therefore, you must first determine the full “equalized” market value of the property indicated by the total assessment and then the actual market value of the property. If full “equalized” market value indicated by the total assessment exceeds actual market value, the property is over-assessed and vice-versa.

Actual market value is determined by utilizing one of three generally accepted methods of valuing real property. The three methods of valuation include the sales comparison approach, the income approach and the cost approach. Application of the proper methods of valuation depends upon the particular property in question. Despite the foregoing, a recent purchase price, under normal market conditions, is considered by the New York State courts as the best evidence of market value.

The tax year for each of the towns in Suffolk County runs from December 1 to the following November 30. The assessor(s) of each town prepares a tentative assessment roll for that tax year which is available for public review on or about the preceding May 1 based upon the value of the property on the preceding July 1st. If a taxpayer is unhappy with an assessment, the taxpayer may file a grievance. The grievance must be filed with the town’s Board of Assessment Review on or before the third Tuesday in May. The taxpayer can file directly or authorize, in writing, an attorney or duly licensed representative to file on their behalf. The filing deadline is very strict. If you do not file timely, you will have to wait until the following year. As a general rule, you can not go back and challenge an assessment for prior tax years.

The Board of Assessment Review can grant the entire reduction requested, a portion thereof, or no reduction at all. My experience has been that less than 5% of all grievance complaints filed result in any reduction in assessment.

The only recourse is to commence a lawsuit against the town and its assessor(s) in New York State Supreme Court. The taxpayer may represent itself or retain an attorney.

As an aside, if the property is also located within a village and the village is an assessing unit, you would generally follow the same filing procedures. However, be advised that the various assessment administration dates and filing date deadlines are very different from those for the towns and you should check with your local village clerk or village assessor.

The facts, circumstances, and complexities of each case vary. However, under normal conditions, assessment review proceedings pending in Suffolk County should be concluded within twelve to eighteen months of the date of the first year filing. Thus, in most instances, there should be no more than two tax years under review when proceedings are concluded.

The costs associated with commencing assessment review proceedings in Suffolk County are, in almost all cases, contingent upon achieving acceptable reductions in assessment. Legal fees are generally one-third of the refunds and/or tax savings achieved for each of the tax years pending. Therefore, if no reductions can be obtained, there would be no legal fees. Court filing fees of $305 for each year under review will be required if a matter is settled, or if a matter must be placed on the court’s conference calendar. Finally, some cases require that an appraisal of the property be prepared at the cost of the property owner. The property owner and attorney should decide together that the cost of an appraisal is justified by the merits of the case and is thus a good investment in the litigation.

For those taxpayers who choose to retain an attorney, it is strongly recommended they select an attorney who specializes in tax certiorari. An attorney concentrating in tax certiorari is an expert in property valuation, understands the ins and outs of tax certiorari procedure, has an existing working relationship with the various town assessors, and has generally established a reputation within the assessment community and the sole Supreme Court Justice who hears all tax certiorari matters in Suffolk County.

Contact an experienced Suffolk County attorney handling NY commercial assessment reductions on Long Island

Contact Scott DeSimone P.C. online or call 631.765.3535 for a free consultation with a tax certiorari lawyer experienced in commercial and residential property tax appeals and assessment reduction in New York State and primarily in Suffolk and Nassau counties. We serve the towns of Brookhaven, East Hampton, Huntington, Islip, Shelter Island, Smithtown and Southampton and Nassau County.