Many of our local residents and businesses have no doubt suffered substantial business and property losses as a result of the recent devastating storm. While the filing of claims with insurance companies and perhaps even with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are clearly of paramount importance, property owners should not overlook another critical component of their available relief lifeline — real property tax relief.
New Jersey law is clear that when real property, containing any building or structure, has been destroyed or altered in such a way that the real property’s value has materially depreciated, whether as a result of storm, fire or other casualty, the tax assessor shall, upon timely notice, determine the value of the parcel of real property in question as of January 1 of the next tax year and adjust the assessment accordingly. [N.J.S.A. 54:4-35.1]. Because significant real property value has undoubtedly been lost in certain storm ravaged areas, the time to act is now to ensure that real property tax assessments are properly adjusted and property taxes reduced. There is simply no reason why the crippling losses suffered by so many should be further compounded by municipal overassessments on these same properties.
The proper and timely notification of local property tax assessors concerning this material depreciation of value and the filing of appropriate tax appeals ensures that affected property owners are not saddled with an even greater financial burden than those foisted upon them by Superstorm Sandy. Significant real property tax relief is available and should therefore be included at the top of any list of actions to be taken during these most difficult times.