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Volume 9 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 23

Opinions of Counsel index

Correction of errors (error in essential fact) (incorrect description of improvement) - Real Property Tax Law, § 550:

The incorrect description of an improvement does not constitute an error in essential fact and may not be corrected pursuant to the correction of errors law. This type of valuation error is subject to review upon filing of an administrative complaint with the board of assessment review.

An assessor calculated the assessed value of an apartment building based upon the belief that it had eight units. While completing a subsequent inventory of commercial property within the city, however, the assessor discovered that the apartment building had only seven units. The assessor asks if this is a correctable error.

Article 5, title 3, of the Real Property Tax Law authorizes corrections on assessment rolls and tax rolls of certain “clerical errors,” “errors in essential fact,” and “unlawful entries,” as those terms are defined in section 550 of the RPTL. The assessor suggests that the situation described is an “error in essential fact.” We assume that the assessor is referring to “an incorrect entry on the taxable portion of the assessment roll, or the tax roll, or both, of the assessed valuation of an improvement to real property which was not in existence or which was present on a different parcel” (RPTL, §550(3)(b), emphasis added). We interpret the term “improvement” to refer to an entire structure, not an incorrect description of an improvement (i.e., structure) existing on a parcel.

The number of apartment units within a building is a part of the description of an improvement and is not administratively correctable by the procedures prescribed in Article 5, title 3, of the RPTL. This type of valuation error is subject to review upon the timely filing of an administrative complaint with the board of assessment review in accordance with title 1-A of Article 5 of the Real Property Tax Law.

October 27, 1987

Updated: