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Real Property Tax Assistance for Victims of Superstorm Sandy

Those persons who suffered property losses as a result of superstorm Sandy should be aware of a New Jersey statute that allows them some relief from property taxes.

The statute, N.J.S.A. 54:4-35.1, allows an owner of real property to apply to the tax assessor of the municipality where the property is located for a re-determination of the property's value if the property suffered a loss that occurred between October 1 and January 1 of the following year.

In order to qualify, the loss must have occurred between October 1 and January 1 of the following year. Thus for this storm, the loss must have occurred between October 1, 2012andJanuary 1, 2013. The victims of Sandy will qualify because the loss occurred on October 29-30, 2012, well within the statutory time frame.

The loss must be to a building or other structure which has been destroyed, consumed by fire, demolished or altered in such way that its value has materially depreciated. The loss may be by way of the action of a storm which would certainly include Sandy.

The property owner must give written notice of the loss to the tax assessor of the municipality in which the property is located no later than January 10, 2013. THIS FILING DATE IS CRITICAL AND IT MUST BE COMPLIED WITH. A LATE FILLING WILL RESULT IN A DENIAL OF ANY CONSIDERATION OF A REDUCTION. At this time there does not appear to be a specific form that must be used, but the notice should specifically identify the property and the nature of the loss. The municipalities may develop a form prior to the filing date.

Upon being noticed by the property owner of the loss, the tax assessor must examine and make inquiry of the property and then determine the value of the property after the loss. The property will then be valued at that assessment as January 1, 2013.

For every assessment of real property there are two values: the value of the land and the value of the improvements upon the land. The improvements in a residential property would typically be the house and other structures such as detached garages, pools, sheds, etc. The reduction in the assessment will only apply to the depreciation in the valuation of the building or other improvements and will not apply to the valuation of the land. This is because the value of the land will remain even if the improvements are damaged or destroyed. When the improvements are repaired or restored, the property will be re-assessed to re-include the value of the improvements.

R.C. Shea and Associates has experience in real estate tax matters and is available to represent you if you have need assistance filing such a claim to make sure that the filing is made in a timely fashion and that the filing requirements are satisfied. For more information about this topic please contact our office.