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Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 48

Opinions of Counsel index

Assessment roll, form (designation of owner) (notice of transfer) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 502, 504:

Where an assessor is satisfied that title to a parcel has passed to new owners, he should list the parcel on the assessment roll in the name of such reputed owner. It is not necessary that he receive formal notification of a transfer before changing the roll in this manner.

We have received an inquiry concerning the identification of the owner of a parcel of real property on assessment rolls, more specifically with changing the designation of the owner based on a transferor title made by a last will and testament, where a certified copy of the will has not been filed, and the only notice of transfer received by the assessor is a letter from the devisees of the decedent. Apparently, the assessor has been advised to list such property on the assessment roll in the name of the decedent’s estate, and our opinion is requested as to the correct procedure to be followed.

Requirements relating to the form of the assessment roll are set forth in section 502 of the Real Property Tax Law, which provides in part, that “[p]rovision shall be made with respect to each separately assessed parcel for the entry ... of the name of the owner, last known owner or reputed owner ...” (Real Property Tax Law, §502(2)).

Subdivision 4 of section 504 of such law provides in part as follows:

4. If, in the preparation of the roll, an error or omission is made ... in entering or failing to enter the name of the owner, last known owner or reputed owner, such error or omission shall not prevent the levy, collection and enforcement of the payment of the taxes thereon if the parcel can be identified and located with reasonable certainty.

It is, of course, desirable to maintain up-to-date designations of owners of property on an assessment roll as an aid to taxpayers and other interested persons to assist them in identifying property, as well as an aid to the tax collector. Accordingly, where the assessor has good information to indicate that title to property has vested in a new owner, he should reflect the change in ownership on the assessment roll.

With regard to listing ownership in the name of an estate, we have previously stated that: “[r]eal property should not be listed on an assessment roll or tax lien list in the name of an estate. The parenthetical addition of ‘(Estate)’ to the name of the deceased owner (i.e., last known owner) is a permissible entry which provides useful information on a tax lien list . . .” (2 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 71).

If the assessor is satisfied that title to a parcel has passed to new owners (e.g., by will), he may list the parcel on the assessment roll in the name of such reputed owner. If, however, he is not satisfied as to the passing of title, he may wish to prepare an entry on the roll in accordance with the aforementioned opinion.

December 19, 1975

Updated: