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Volume 11 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 97

Opinions of Counsel index

Living quarters for parents or grandparents exemption (ownership) (qualifying owner) (residency) (dwelling unit); School tax relief [STAR] exemption (ownership) (mobile home) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 425, 469:

A mobile home owned by a woman and placed on land owned by her child or grandchild does not qualify for the exemption for living quarters of parents or grandparents but may qualify for the school tax relief [STAR] exemption.

Our opinion has been requested concerning the exemption for living quarters for parents or grandparents (Real Property Tax Law, § 469) and the school tax relief [STAR] exemption (RPTL, § 425). The assessor states that a married couple have purchased a mobile home and placed it on their property as a residence for the wife’s mother. The mother has been given a life estate to the mobile home. The question is if the mobile home may receive an exemption pursuant to section 469, 425, or both.

Section 469 of the RPTL authorizes a partial exemption for the construction or reconstruction of property to accommodate the residency of a parent or grandparent of an owner of property or the spouse of such owner (§ 469(5)). Since the mother, as the life tenant of the mobile home, is its owner for purposes of taxation (see, e.g., 3 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 45), {1} in our opinion, the mobile home may not receive exemption under section 469 as it is not “providing living quarters for a parent or grandparent” of its owner (§ 469(1)).

Even if title to the mobile home were in the children/land owners, in our opinion, a mobile home separate and apart from the residential property would not qualify for the exemption. The statute requires that “[t]he residential property so constructed or reconstructed [be] the principal place of residence of the owner” (§ 469(2)(b)). To the extent that the statute is not definitive on this point, we note that the sponsor’s memo for the bill which enacted section 469 (S.812 - L.2000, c.377) states: “[t]he parent or grandparent must be at least 62 years of age and reside with the taxpayer” (emphasis added). In other words, it seems clear that section 469 is intended to exempt living quarters which are built or modified to allow the parent or grandparent to reside within the same structure as his or her descendents.

Given the facts presented, however, it appears that the mother may receive a STAR exemption on her mobile home. Section 425(4 a)(b) of the RPTL provides:

(b) Parcels with two or more separate residences thereon. When a parcel includes two or more physically separate residences, an exemption may be granted pursuant to this section to each residence which (i) serves as the primary residence of at least one of the owners of the parcel, and (ii) would be eligible for an exemption pursuant to this section if it were separately assessed and owned exclusively by the owner or owners who reside therein, provided that only one such exemption may be applied to the land included within the parcel. {2}

Assuming that the mother satisfies all of the other necessary statutory criteria, she may receive the basic or enhanced STAR exemption on the mobile home itself. {3}

February 5, 2007

{1}  While it may be difficult to prove the creation of a life tenancy to a mobile home, especially as to mobile homes manufactured since July 1, 1994 that are transferable by means of certificates of title issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (Vehicle and Traffic Law, §§ 2104, 2102(19)), such ownership interest is at least theoretically possible (11 Op.Counsel SBRPS No. 96). Since the assessor states that such is the case here, we assume that the assessor has received sufficient proof of such ownership interest.

{2}  Consistent with the quoted provision, section 425(2)(l)(iii) of the RPTL provides, in part: “If the owner of the trailer or mobile home does not own the land, he or she may apply for exemption pursuant to this section only upon the trailer or mobile home.”

{3}  Note that if the children owned the mobile home, it could not receive a STAR exemption since they presumably do not reside therein.