How (and when) to Appeal Your NJ Property Tax

Each year, homeowners in New Jersey are required to pay property taxes, but when the time comes for you to make that payment, you may be in for a shock. If you have an understanding of how your property tax is calculated, you will be able to investigate whether you’re paying too much, depending on the assessment of your home. The good news is that the taxable value of your home may be sky high, but there are steps you can take to decrease that value and save a few bucks on your property tax bill.

Before you can move further along in the appeal process, it’s helpful to know how your property tax is actually calculated. In NJ, there are two aspects of your tax bill: first, the taxable value of your home and second, the tax rate. Normally, the municipal tax assessor will review your home to determine the taxable value. The taxable value is 100% of the home’s “worth” or the amount it would be sold for on the open market. The taxable value will be multiplied by the tax rate to decide the property tax. Unfortunately, local officials set the tax rate, so you don’t have much control over that. You may be able to get the taxable value reduced if you believe it is set too high.

If you’re planning to appeal your property tax, one or more of the following must be true:

  • The tax assessor determined your property tax bill using inaccurate information. For example, the official may have assumed your home is 3,000 square feet when it’s actually only 2,500 square feet.
  • The current market value of your home is lower than what was actually concluded by the assessor.
  • Compared to similar homes in your community, the assessor may have determined the taxable value to be too high. It’s important to know whether or not your home is over-assessed, as some municipalities do not evaluate properties at 100% of the true value. If the assessment on your home is 15% higher than the market value, this would be a case in which an appeal would be acceptable. Before filing an appeal, contact your local assessor if you believe he or she has made a mistake. They will often correct it.

If you’re confused as to exactly what steps to take to appeal your property tax, keep reading!

  1. Request a copy of the card with the details of your house assessment from the local or county tax assessor.
  2. As stated above, know the details of your appeal and be sure that you can provide support. Also, compare your home to similar homes in the community to determine an appropriate taxable value for your home.
  3. Meet with a real estate attorney who has experience with tax appeals. Because each case has its own labyrinth of details, it may be unwise to try to handle it on your own. An attorney will understand the local real estate market and have knowledge of crucial deadlines and regulations specific to NJ.
  4. Collaborate with your attorney to determine whether or not you are going to appeal. Be aware that the appeal must be filed prior to the April 1st deadline. Once the filing is complete, a hearing before County Tax Board will be scheduled. It is crucial to comply with all of the deadlines and regulations to have a successful appeal. If you miss the date of your appearance before the Board, you will have to wait until the following year to refile.

If you submit your appeal, but do not agree with the final decision, you can take your appeal to the New Jersey Tax Court. If you haven’t yet, it would be helpful to hire a lawyer if you decide to take your appeal for further review. The appealing process can be difficult and involves many intricacies. Make sure that you do your research before making any quick decisions!

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Property Tax Appeals After a Natural Disaster

Photo courtesy of Raquel Baranow

With all of the property damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, most people in affected areas are still working hard to bring their homes back to their former beauty. It may seem hard to believe for those who are somewhat removed from the situation, but many New Jersey towns unfortunately have quite a few residents whose houses and properties were essentially ruined. Now it’s been nearly a month since Sandy blew through town. Homeowner’s or Flood Insurance claims have been filed, damage has been mostly cleaned up, and rebuilding is starting to take shape.

Homeowners in towns like Asbury Park, Point Pleasant, Manasquan, Avon, Allenhurst, and so many others along the New Jersey coastline who have suffered property damage may be coming to some harsh financial realities. Although helpful, insurance just isn’t going to pay for all of the bills that are starting to pile up. As homeowners and business owners reach this conclusion, they are left scratching their heads about what else can be done.

Many home mortgage lenders are seeing an influx in applications for loan adjustments, and many are responding with forebearance plans. In a forebearance plan, lenders agree not to force borrowers into foreclosure as long as they bring their loan payments current by the end of the term of the plan. In addition to loan modifications, New Jersey residents have another avenue to travel down if their home, business, building, or property of any type sustained damage due to Hurricane Sandy.

New Jersey law, specifically statute N.J.S.A. 54:4-35.1, states: “When any parcel of real property contains any building or other structure which has been destroyed, consumed by fire, demolished, or altered in such a way that its value has materially depreciated, either intentionally or by the action of storm, fire, cyclone, tornado, or earthquake, or other casualty, which depreciation of value occurred after October first in any year and before January first of the following year, the assessor shall, upon notice thereof being given to him by the property owner prior to January tenth of said year, and after examination and inquiry, determine the value of such parcel of real property as of said January first, and assess the same according to such value.”

What that means in layman’s terms is that property taxes are based on the value of a piece of land and the building(s) on that land. If any of those buildings were damaged so much that their market value has decreased, the homeowner or business owner is entitled to owe less in property taxes. In the case of Hurricane Sandy, commercial and residential property owners must make a request to have their tax assessor revalue their property by January 9, 2013.

It is possible that you may be required to attend a public hearing at your County Board of Taxation, and in this case it is highly recommended that you retain the services of an attorney and be sure that he or she is in attendance with you at the hearing.  Look for an attorney who specializes in real property or real estate, and ensure that he or she is licensed to practice law in New Jersey. All businesses aside from sole proprietorships are required to be represented by an attorney at the public hearing level.