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Property Taxes NY: How wide of scope are towns legally allowed to investigate owner filing assessment grievances/exemptions?

Bellport, NY |

Gov.Cuomo's law not to increase NYS property taxes more than 2%/yr has had town lawyers & auditors work OT to find loopholes to increase again. RAR formulas have changed to effect higher tax increases, but most of public is not aware of this until tax bills arrive. Legislation was passed to help veterans, seniors, disabled, financially downtrodden property owners remain in their homes. Trusts, life estates are legally prepared to assist this population of property owners. It has become an increasingly bitter battle between towns and property owners with regard to property assessment, full market values, exemptions. Towns are requesting, investigating more private info NEVER intended by the legislature to be criteria for grievances or exemptions inclusive of investigating family members!

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

Dear how wide a scope?

Your inquiry is mostly political because the issue you framed is how localities interpret New York State law. When a person becomes aggrieved by the actions of a town, acting through a board, the general method to challenge the legality of the action is by means of a lawsuit brought under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Laws and Rules.

Read more about the Article 78 proceeding at:

If the political issue affects a number of persons similarly situated, the could join together in a group with one attorney to challenge the process as contrary to law.

Good luck.

The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.



Thank you for reply. In 2 separate yrs, I brought town to supreme court for hearings post board denials. Both times judge awarded exemption, reduced assessment stating I met my burden of proof under the law. Town promised to overturn its most recent denial, later did about face, said it "changed its mind" (what happened was that original assessor agreed to grant exemption post court's award, wrote it, but moved on to another position, so new assessor, town attorney retracted prior assessor's agreement with me, court. Can they do that? What are "mechanics" of Art 78? Apply for an index # What else do I apply for when getting index #? Can I subpoena the prior assessor to testify(she no longer works for town)? Since she left I have been terribly defamed and harassed by new town assessor, his staff, other town officials to my face, my family, in presence of others, in writing. Once I am on the court calendar,how long should it take for my case to be heard,approx? Should I hire an appraiser also as I am paying highest taxes in my neighborhood? Also, town "comp"ed my house against houses in towns 10miles more away when similar houses are in my neighborhood.

Steven Warren Smollens

Steven Warren Smollens


OK. Sounds as though there is more vendetta here than ordinarily enters into an assessment and a challenge. When a court issues an order, no one, except for the judge or an appellate court, can change the court order. When the town deviated from the court order when a new assessor entered the arena, the invalidation by fiat of the court's order could be considered a contempt of court. You really NEED an attorney. Article 78 is not an easy litigation. The statute of limitations is short. The rules of service and of naming parties are strict. The objective is always to annul and vacate a final determination of a board, government entity, where you are the aggrieved party. No new evidence comes in for an Article 78 and the court must decide the matter based on the administrative record, and cannot substitute its own judgment for the agency's. The court can annul, vacate on grounds that the determination made was arbitrary and capricious and on other grounds. Hire an attorney. Good luck.


Perhaps I'm naive, but one would think the information required challenging an assessment woud be relatively straighforward for a residential property appraisal: inquiries into fair market value based on comparable sales prices, purchase prices and physical characteristics of the building, whether you are 65 or a veteran or not. Much of this information would either be from public sources or not terribly intrusive of privacy.

For commercial, industrial or income properties, however, I'd expect there's some right under certain circumstances, if an assessment were challenged, the Board and Assessor could inquire into income, expenses, rate of return and other financial information of the revenue streams from the property, because that's one method of determining value. Is that what you're referring to?

Can you please give a better example of the intrusive information requests you're mentioning? Not enough information in your question to determine an answer, or even what your complaint is exactly.


You should write your congressman. Everyone is frustrated with rising property taxes, but the bottom-line is that irresponsible fiscal spending by government bodies and stagnant real estate values combined with diminishing state tax/local receipts tent to lead to increased property taxes. This is a fact of life. The best way to change the status quo is to become involved in government policy and advocate for changes that will correct this problem.