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Volume 9 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 56

Opinions of Counsel index

Assessment review, small claims (award of costs to petitioner) - Real Property Tax Law, § 733:

Where a stipulated settlement in a small claims assessment review proceeding results in a reduction in assessed value which is equal to or greater than half of the reduction requested by the petitioner, the hearing officer must award costs, unless the petitioner has waived costs.

In a recent small claims assessment review proceeding (Real Property Tax Law, Art. 7, title 1-A), the assessment was reduced from $4,000 to $3,600 as a result of a settlement. Noting that the petitioner requested a reduction to $3,528, the question is whether the petitioner is entitled to an award of costs.

A decision must be rendered by the hearing officer, even in small claims cases which are settled, because neither the assessment roll nor tax roll may be changed without such decision (RPTL, §734).

Section 733(1) of the RPTL provides in pertinent part:

If the assessment is reduced by an amount equal to or greater than half the reduction sought, the hearing officer shall award the petitioner costs against the respondent assessing unit in an amount equal to the fee paid by the petitioner to file the petition for review. (emphasis added)

Accordingly, unless the petitioner waived costs as part of the settlement of the proceeding, the hearing officer must award the same, there being no provision in the statute that costs are not to be awarded in cases which are subject to settlement. {*}  This is consistent with the Legislature’s intent that the petitioner receive what is essentially a refund of the filing fee where there is a reduction of one half or more of that requested.

March 6, 1991


{*}  We distinguish proceedings which are dismissed on jurisdictional grounds; there costs are not awardable (9 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 27).

Updated: