Was Your House or Business Damaged Because of Hurricane Sandy? You May Qualify for a Lower Property Tax Assessment

If your property was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, you may qualify for a reduction in your property assessment for 2013.

Normally,  all properties are valued in the condition in which they existed on October 1 of the pretax year. But Mercer County Tax Assessor Martin Guhl said there is an exception to this law when a property suffers “material damage” such as a major fire or other significant damage after October 1 and before January 1.  In such circumstances, the property owner is required to notify the local tax assessor in writing about the damage. The notification must be in writing and must be sent before Jan. 10.

In the case of Hurricane Sandy, the State of New Jersey has told tax assessors to actively seek out property owners who may have difficulty providing this notice because of the hardship associated with the storm.  Written notice is still required, but in some cases the local assessor can proactively identify eligible properties and apply an adjustment for those properties that may have been extensively damaged, left uninhabitable or totally destroyed.  This is being done in recognition of the extreme hardship placed upon some property owners who have lost their homes or temporarily are unable to occupy their homes.

Guhl said that in Mercer County, because the damages are generally more limited in nature than in the shore townships, the assessors face a difficult task establishing which properties are damaged and to what extent they are damaged.

“Accordingly, it is important for any property owner who has suffered significant damage to write or email your assessor and let them know your name, address, phone number, block and lot, and the nature and extent of the damages suffered due to this storm,” Guhl said in a letter regarding the issue.  “If you have repair cost estimates, let the assessor know and make these estimates readily available to the assessor.  You should do this as soon as possible and no later than January 10th.”

Guhl said a form is available online for property owners who want to submit their information.

Property owners who  complete repairs by January 1 are not eligible for the adjustment, Gouhl said. Only property owners who will continue to have a significantly damaged property beyond January 1st should contact their assessor.

“There is no other way that any assessor can be certain that they have identified all of the significantly damaged properties in their towns,” he wrote. “Finally, please bear in mind that any property receiving a damage adjustment will be subject to an added assessment once the repairs are completed.”

Property owners with questions about the policy should contact their local tax assessor. A list of Tax Assessors and their office numbers is available online. Property owners in Mercer County can also call the Mercer County Tax Administrator  at (609) 989-6704.

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