Here’s something to put the “spring” back in your step – maybe more money in your pocket. It is no secret that property taxes in Westchester County are among some of the highest in the nation and the wave to lower them started happening in earnest about two years ago. Many homeowners began filing tax grievance applications. The movement began as a low whisper and has turned into a deafening roar, as each municipality is now receiving hundreds of applications per year.
As a Westchester attorney who practices in this area, I have noticed more and more local assessors cringing under the weight of the applications and the reality that full market value is generally much lower than their tax roll. Many properties are worth 50% less than they were just four or five years ago. So what does that mean for you? 2010 was the first year the municipalities realized the tax rolls were over-inflated and began granting a reduction in property taxes to many property owners who filed tax grievance applications. Not everyone received the full requested reduction but many received close to it.
Filing a tax grievance application is a relatively simple process and is worth the small appraisal fee for most homeowners, generally between $450-$600. Further, while many homeowners try to exercise self-help in filing the grievance application, it is worth retaining an attorney to help you from the start. The attorney’s fee is contingent on a reduction or refund received; therefore, there is no professional fee upfront. When you are turned down, you will need to go to court and while you can act pro se if you must appeal, you will need to appear in court 2 – 3 times before the SCAR Part hears your case and you must present expert testimony. Do you really want to be Perry Mason with yourself as a client? The only upfront fees to appeal are filing and process fees with the attorney’s fee again being contingent. Also, there is no downside to filing the application because the municipality will not raise your assessment just because you filed the application.
It is important to keep in mind that most municipalities in Westchester base your taxes on the prior year’s assessment, so if your town’s grievance deadline is mid-May or June 21, 2011 for the 2011 tax roll, any reduction will not be realized until your 2012 taxes. Therefore, don’t delay because prospective savings are still a year away. Municipal summaries are available online or by calling your local assessor’s office for important filing deadlines and assessment figures.