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Volume 8 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 30

Opinions of Counsel index

Sales reporting (public inspection and copying) (property record card information) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 501, 574; 9 NYCRR 191-2.4:

Nonconfidential information transcribed from a real property transfer report (EA-5217) to an assessor’s property record card is available for public inspection and copying.

Our opinion has been requested as to whether information transcribed from a real property transfer report (EA-5217) to an assessor’s property record card is available for public inspection and copying.

Real Property Tax Law (RPTL), §574(5) provides that:

Forms or reports filed pursuant to this section or section three hundred thirty-three of the real property law [i.e., EA-5217’s] shall not be made available for public inspection or copying except for purposes of administrative or judicial review of assessments in accordance with rules promulgated by the state board.

The State Board’s rules (9 NYCRR 191-2.4) require that any person seeking to inspect or copy these forms must complete and sign Form EA-5217-DCL indicating:

(1) the name of the person seeking to inspect the forms;

(2) the forms sought to be inspected or copied;

(3) a statement certifying that the inspection is for purposes of administrative or judicial review of assessments; and

(4) the administrative or judicial body which will review the assessment.

In regard to the last of these items, we interpret “administrative review” to mean the presentation of a complaint on an assessment before a county, city, town, or village board of assessment review, and “judicial review” to mean a proceeding brought pursuant to RPTL, Article 7.

Given the laws and rules, the custodian of an EA-5217 is prohibited from making the form available for inspection or copying except within the context of administrative or judicial review of assessments. However, the transfer of data contained on EA-5217’s to other documents for the assessor’s use (e.g., property record cards) is not precluded by either RPTL, §574(5) or the State Board’s rules. In fact, the primary purpose of the sales reporting procedure is to provide accurate and timely sales information to the assessor for use in assessment administration. Furthermore, neither the law nor the rules would bar a custodian from extracting for public use EA-5217 information which is already a matter of public record and therefore not confidential, such as a deed or the latest completed final assessment roll as of the date of sale.

Therefore, non-confidential information on the EA-5217 (rev. 4/83) which may be routinely disclosed upon request includes the date of recordation (item A-2), the book of deeds (A-3), the page (A-4), the property location (B-l), buyer’s name (B-2), seller’s name (B-4), deeded property size (B-6), date of sale (E-l) and deed type (E-6) because each appears in the county records (e.g., grantor - grantee index) or on the face of the deed. Similarly, the school district in which the property is located (item B-7), the latest completed assessment roll as of the date of sale (C-l), the number of parcels transferred (C-2), the total assessed value of the parcels transferred (C-3), tax map identifier (C-4) and assessment roll identifier (C-5) may be disclosed because each appears on or can be determined from an assessment roll or tax map and the deed. The general use of the property (item D-l) and whether the property sold is a condominium (D-2) may also be disclosed because they should be a matter of common knowledge. However, in our opinion, the remaining items on the form (items B-3, B-5, D-3, D-4, E-2, E-3, E-4, E-5, E-7, E-8, and Part F) may not be a matter of public record at the time the EA-5217 is completed and are therefore confidential, and should not normally be disclosed, except in response to a request on a completed EA-5217-DCL.

As a rule, an assessor’s property record cards are available for public inspection and copying pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law, Article 6; see, 4 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 25). However, Public Officers Law, section 87(2) provides in part that “[e]ach agency shall . . . make available for public inspection and copying all records, except that such agency may deny access to records or portions thereof that: (a) are specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute” (emphasis added). We believe that confidential information transcribed from an EA-5217 to an assessor’s property record card constitutes a portion of a record which is specifically exempt from disclosure by State statute (i.e., RPTL, §574(5)).

Accordingly, in our opinion, in order to comply with the limitations imposed by section 574 of the RPTL, an assessor must withhold confidential information on an EA-5217 from a photocopy of the property record card before making that photocopy available for public inspection or copying.

November 8, 1984

NOTE:  Construes law prior to L.1993, c.257.

Updated: