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Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 74

Opinions of Counsel index

Board of Assessment Review (filing of complaint) (scheduled adjournment) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 1524, 1526:

The board of assessment review must accept complaints relative to assessments at any time during which such board is holding a public hearing, even after the scheduled time for adjournment.

We have received an inquiry concerning the filing of complaints with the board of assessment review. In the factual situation presented, the board has been scheduled to meet for the purposes of hearing complaints relative to assessments on grievance day between 4 P.M. and 8 P.M. At 8:15, a number of complainants have not as yet been heard, but the board does not wish to adjourn to another day. The question is whether the board may receive complaint forms from those individuals present at such time, and refuse to accept complaints from other individuals thereafter. It has been suggested that those individuals still waiting at the time grievance day is scheduled to end (i.e., 8 P.M.) be brought into the meeting room and that the board thereafter refuse to accept additional complaints from late arrivals.

Subdivision 2(a) of section 1524 of the Real Property Tax Law provides that the board of assessment review shall fix the hours of the meeting to hear and determine complaints in relation to assessments (i.e., grievance day), “which hours shall be for a period of at least four hours not necessarily continuous between nine o’clock in the morning and ten o’clock in the evening but in no event less than two hours after six o’clock in the evening.” (emphasis added)

Subdivision 3 of section 1526 of the Real Property Tax Law provides, in part, that “[c]omplaints with respect to assessments may be filed with the assessor at any time prior to the hearing of the board of assessment review or with the board of assessment review at such hearing or any adjourned hearing.” (emphasis added) Likewise, subdivision 2 of section 512 of such law authorizes the board of assessment review to accept a complaint on any adjourned hearing day.

Sections 1524 and 1526 are included within Article 15-A of the Real Property Tax Law, the so-called “Assessment Improvement Law.” In our opinion, the provisions of this article are to be broadly construed in favor of equitable assessment administration. A major part in such assessment administration is administrative review. Consequently, it is our opinion that the time periods set forth in section 1524 are not meant to be restrictive, that is, the hours specified therein are meant to be the minimum hours during which the board of assessment re view must meet. Thus, it is not improper for the board to continue in session after 10:00 P.M. It is also significant that the Legislature saw fit to provide that complaints could be filed with the board of assessment review on any adjourned hearing date. This, too, reflects the attitude of the Legislature toward the importance of administrative review.

As Judge Hogan pointed out in 700 Shore Road Associates v. Board of Assessment Review, 70 Misc.2d 822, 335 N.Y.S.2d 114, “[u]nless the aggrieved taxpayer has filed his protest with the Board of Assessment Review before the body concludes its hearings, he has no recourse.” However, as the same judge pointed out in Professional Equities Corp. v. Board of Assessors, 75 Misc.2d 403, 347 N.Y.S.2d 890, such protests may not be filed after the last public hearing has been concluded.

In our opinion, the aforementioned Real Property Tax Law sections are to be distinguished from statutes containing analogous provisions regarding hours during which certain action may betaken. For example, section 191 of the Election Law sets forth the hours during which the polls must be open. In an unofficial opinion in 1934, the Attorney General’s office held that all persons within the polling place at the time the polls are scheduled to close may be permitted to vote, and if the polling place is not large enough to contain all the qualified voters desiring to vote at that time, those in line outside of the polling place must also be permitted to vote. The Attorney General concluded that the polls should be closed as to all others who are not within the polling place or in line awaiting admission at the time the polls are to close (51 St.Dept. 143). In our opinion, the provisions regarding hours contained in section 1524 of the Real Property Tax Law are easily distinguished from those contained in the Election Law. Whereas the former are meant to constitute the minimum hours during which the board of assessment review must meet, the latter set forth the specific hours (i.e., both maximum and minimum) during which the polls must be open to the voters. Accordingly, based on the language contained in sections 1524 and 1526 of the Real Property Tax Law, as well as in the cases construing such sections, it is our opinion that the board of assessment review must accept complaints relative to assessments at any time during which such board is holding a public hearing, even after the scheduled time for adjournment.

May 14, 1976

NOTE:  Construes law prior to L.1991, c.662.

Updated: