“[A]ny person aggrieved” may request an abatement. RSA 76:16. This includes someone who acquires the subject real estate after April 1 but before the December tax bill comes out. Langford v. Town of Newton, 119 N.H. 470 (1979). The buyer is a “party aggrieved” because it receives notice of the April 1 assessment when the December bills came out. (The closing in the Langford case was typical in that the parties prorated the real estate taxes at closing based on the prior year’s taxes.) Please note the seller had timely filed an inventory. The buyer, of course, did not. This was important to the court. If the seller had failed to file the inventory, the court still may have considered the buyer an aggrieved party, but denied the ability to maintain the appeal based on the failure to file the inventory. In addition, a superior tax abatement appeal may be assigned and continued by the buyer of real estate. Wise Shoe Co. v. Town of Exeter, 119 N.H. 700 (1979).
The standard is whether a particular piece of property is assessed disproportionately higher than other properties in the same municipality. The standard is not whether the property is assessed at a value higher than fair market value, but whether it is assessed at a greater percentage of fair market value than other properties; therefore, if a parcel is assessed at a value 10% higher than fair market value and all other parcels in town are assessed at a value 10% higher than fair market value, then no grounds exist for an abatement.
The first step is to calculate what the town believes is the fair market value of the property. This is done by dividing the assessed value by the equalization ratio. If you can demonstrate the resulting fair market value is higher than actual fair market value, then grounds exist for an abatement.
All other properties owned by the same taxpayer in the same municipality must be included when doing this analysis. If one property is over-assessed but another is under-assessed by an equal amount, then no grounds exist for an abatement.
In determining whether other land of the owner must be introduced for purposes of determining proportionality, the key is whether the owner is the taxpayer on those parcels. See Appeal of City of Lebanon (February 23, 2011). “We now clarify that when a taxpayer owns more than one parcel in any given municipality, a request for abatement on one will always require consideration of the assessment on any other parcels for which the owner is also the taxpayer.” The key, though, is whether the taxpayer is also the taxpayer for those other parcels. Facts of Appeal of Lebanon: taxpayer owed two lots. One lot subject to a 75 year sublease to Walgreens (Walgreens also had the right to terminate after 25 years). The lease was triple net and Walgreens had the right to pursue tax abatements. The court held that the taxpayer was required only to introduce evidence of disproportionality for the lot it challenged, which was the lot not subject to the Walgreen’s lease.
The court’s ruling was quite broad and may open the door for much shorter leases. The court did not seem to consider the length of the lease important. In fact, it appears irrelevant. What seems to matter is who had the obligation of paying the tax as between landlord and tenant.
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