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Volume 11 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 2

Opinions of Counsel index

Tax bills (address) (E911 changes); Assessment roll (designation of owner) (notice; E911 address changes) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 502, 518, 922:

Where the implementation of an enhanced emergency telephone service (E911) system necessitates the renumbering and/or renaming of street addresses to eliminate confusion which might otherwise confront emergency response personnel, it is appropriate for assessors to change tax billing addresses to conform to such address changes.

Our opinion has been requested as to the effect of E911 address changes on real property tax administration. A county has passed a local law requiring the re-addressing of properties, as necessary, to accommodate E911 implementation. The question is if current tax billing addresses can or should be changed automatically to comport with the revised addresses or whether property owners must submit a change of address pursuant to section 518 of the Real Property Tax Law.

Section 301(3) of the County Law defines an “E911 system” as “an enhanced emergency telephone service which automatically connects a person dialing the digits 9-1-1 to an established public service answering point and which shall include, but not be limited to, selective routing, automatic number identification and automatic location identification” (emphasis added). It is our understanding that an effective E911 system can sometimes necessitate the renumbering and/or renaming of street addresses to eliminate confusion which might otherwise confront emergency response personnel (e.g., Beach, Beech and Peach Streets). It appears that this is the rationale for the provision in the local law.

Our review of the United States Postal Service's LACS (i.e., Locatable Address Conversion System) Management Instructions (911 Addressing) [Filing Number DM-940-89-03] and a subsequent conversation with a USPS representative at the National Customer Support Center leads to the conclusion that while some property owners gratuitously file a change of address notification after an E911 address change, this is not a requirement of the Postal Service. Instead, the local planning authority, which initiates the address changes, is to provide (at its expense) postal customers with initial notification. The postmaster or delivery unit manager is to provide subsequent notice of the change. Under the heading “Local Postmaster,” the LACS Instructions state:

2. Ensure Delivery Service. (a) All classes of mail addressed with the rural route and box number, or old city-style address, which have been converted to city-style address will continue to be delivered to the addressee for one year after the effective date of the conversion; therefore, do not request or accept Form 3575, Change of Address Order, from customers who remain at the same physical location. *** (b) Mail addressed [to the pre-911 changed address] should continue to be delivered beyond the 12 months as long as the carrier knows where the mail belongs. . . .

Section 502(9) of the Real Property Tax Law requires provision to be made on the assessment roll “for the entry of the tax billing address” which is “the address designated by the owner to which tax bills shall be sent.” Consistent therewith, section 922(1)(a) of the RPTL provides that the tax collecting officer is to mail the tax bill to the tax billing address (see also, RPTL, §§ 1322(1), 1324, 1430(1) and 9 NYCRR 185-1.1(a)(276)). Section 518 of the RPTL provides, in part: “Where the assessor receives a report of a transfer occurring after taxable status date, or is otherwise notified of a change in tax billing address, the assessor shall enter the new tax billing address on the data file. . .” (emphasis added).

While the statutory provisions regarding tax bills generally include exculpatory language excusing a municipality’s failure to mail the bill or the owner’s failure to receive the same, the obvious purpose of the cited sections is to give the property owner good and timely notice of taxes being due. Although most tax billing address changes result from transfers of ownership or tax escrow account changes, in our opinion, a change of address occasioned by E911 implementation and reported to the assessor fits within the “other[] . . . change in tax billing address” referred to in section 518. Accordingly, and again in our opinion, it is appropriate for assessors to change tax billing addresses to conform to such E911 changes.

The RPTL is replete with provisions concerning mailed assessment and tax notices. Local officials responsible for such notices have an obvious interest in seeing that they are properly delivered. Insisting on a change of address form filing by property owners where one is not required (and indeed discouraged by the Postal Service) is inconsistent with such interest. If desired, property owners subject to E911 address changes could be notified that tax bills will thereafter be sent to the newly established addresses. This might reduce the number of subsequent claims of failure to receive assessment notices and/or tax bills. If this step is undertaken, it would also seem appropriate to notify service organizations of such changes.

February 28 and April 16, 2001