Tax Certiorari & Condemnation - Small Claims Assessment Review (SCAR) – Reduced Assessment on Highly-Valued Property
Berkson & Walisever v. Assessor of Town of Scarsdale, Westchester (SCAR Index# 3385/14)
Our Tax Certiorari & Condemnation lawyers understand that, in Westchester, highly-valued properties sometimes brings on excessive tax assessment. Here, Stephen Davis, on behalf of the owners of one of the highest valued one-family residences in Scarsdale, tried the Small Claims Assessment Review (SCAR) proceeding contesting the Assessor’s assertion of a $9,679,700 value. SCAR limits assessment reduction to 25% of the contested assessed value. Steve achieved the maximum permitted reduction, obtaining after trial a revised assessment of $7,259,775. The Court Hearing Officer rejecting the Town’s assertion of greatly added value attributed to the basketball half-court located in the basement. He did so, perhaps on the basis of Steve’s observation at trial of the court’s suitability for no more than free-throws and lay-ups.
Tax Certiorari & Condemnation - Valuation of Ancient Theater
Westchester Playhouses v. Assessor of Town of Rye (Supreme Court, Westchester Co. 2011)
In order to succeed for their clients, tax certiorari lawyers must focus on whether a property has current rental value. In multiple annual assessment proceedings in which Stephen Davis sought tax refunds based on a high tax assessment of $950,000, Steve successfully negotiated a reduction in the assessment of an ancient theatre to $480,000. The lowered assessment reflects treatment of an older theatre (circa 1922) in Port Chester as though it were vacant land. Steve successfully presented to the Assessor and the Town’s tax certiorari counsel evidence that this almost 90 year old building possessed virtually zero value. The theater, occupying approximately 75% of the building, supported no uses, as it had gone dark in the late 1970s, had reached a state of utter deterioration, and would have required a further investment of many hundreds of thousands of dollars to rehabilitate just to render it rentable. The assessor recognized the argument that a property owner need not essentially rebuild the property in order to make it income producing for creation of assessable value.
Tax Certiorari & Condemnation - Floods Sink Mamaroneck Values
Delvito Realty v. Assessors of the Town & Village of Mamaroneck, Supreme Court, Westchester Co. (2010 & 2011); 603 Fenimore ) Rd Corp. v. Assessors of the Town and Village of Mamaroneck, Supreme Court, Westchester Co. (2010 & 2011).
Our lawyers’ familiarity with Mamaroneck’s flooding conditions benefitted clients seeking reduction of their assessments when those conditions adversely impact their property. Representing the owner of a high end, two tenant, 20,000 sq. ft. industrial building in Mamaroneck’s “Flats,” the Village’s industrial area, Stephen Davis, who chairs our Tax Certiorari & Condemnation group, successfully negotiated settlements of multiple annual tax certiorari proceedings, reducing the Town assessments by 45% and the Village assessments by 55%. In the second case, Steve achieved comparable reductions for another warehouse in “The Flats.” Steve successfully presented to the two Assessors and to the Town’s and Village’s tax certiorari counsel, evidence that the 2007 March and April floods significantly depressed market value in the area, and continues to do so. Adding to the prior flooding the deluge created by recent Hurricane Irene, these days “The Flats” of Mamaroneck seem to be referred to as the Sheldrake River flood plain. This reputation for repeated severe flooding engenders greatly reduced values for the many warehouse buildings of this once prime lower Westchester industrial area.
As part of their work, Tax Certiorari and Condemnation lawyers must understand environmental issues and their impact on a property's valuation. Representing Westchester Joint Water Works (WJWW), Stephen Davis successfully upheld WJWW's condemnation against attack from an alleged failure of WJWW to undertake adequate environmental considerations. Exercising its original jurisdiction, the Appellate Division sustained the argument that WJWW properly relied upon three prior negative declarations for the affected subdivision in discharging WJWW’s obligation to take and consider the required long, hard look at the project’s effect upon the environment.
Tax Certiorari and Condemnation cases almost always involve the use of experts to establish value. Here, Stephen Davis successfully used an expert to establish rental value for apartments in a cooperative apartment buildling conversion as part of the capitalization of income process. At the taxpayer’s behest, the court applied a remedial statute designed to avoid use of sales prices for each unit, the effect of which would make the sum of the parts worth more than the whole, i.e., worth more than a neighboring similar apartment building. Instead, the rental value, rather than the so-called conversion value, was considered to be the best measure of value. Then, Steve convinced the Appellate Division to affirm the lower court ruling.
The valuation technique used by Tax Certiorari & Condemnation lawyers is the key to success or failure of their cases. Here, Stephen Davis successfully obtained a tax assessment reduction for property owned by the user department store permitted by capitalizing rental value. He did so through the use of expert testimony on rental values, rather than employing a cumbersome reconstruction cost methodology that would have likely resulted in a higher valuation for the client's property. Steve then won on the appeal.
Tax Certiorari & Condemnation - Adjustment By Equalization Rate Comes To Westchester
McCarthy Fingar's Tax Certiorari & Condemnation lawyers have also represented local towns and municipalities to defend their assessments. Here, on behalf of the Town of Rye, Stephen Davis established for Westchester County tax certiorari practice avoidance of artificially depressed value through overstatement of tax expense when capitalizing net income. Steve persuaded the court to adopt the Nassau County methodology of adjusting the actual tax rate by the ratio of assessed value to full value.