As the deadline for tax assessment challenges approaches, we are being asked whether declining values of commercial and office properties due to the pandemic can be the basis for filing a property tax assessment challenge. The answer is “Yes.”
The commercial retail market has been declining for a while now, as brick and mortar retail struggles to compete with the convenience and pricing of online commerce. If sales tumble, rents will inevitably decrease. This in turn results in a decline in net income which yields lower market values for the real property. The pandemic has exacerbated this situation, with many retail businesses closing their doors suddenly, and in some cases, permanently, leaving their landlords with decreased revenue, increased vacancies, and expenses, including property taxes, that continue to increase steadily.
Aside from retail space, the pandemic has exposed a latent weakness in the market for commercial office space. Technological advances over the past 20 years have made work from home possible, and many companies are beginning to question their need for traditional office space. Both the quality and quantity of the space that businesses require now and will be looking to lease in the future is in the midst of a nationwide transformation, and that has the potential to wreak havoc on the valuation of office buildings and office parks.
Importantly, it does not matter whether your business owns or rents real estate. If you are legally on the hook for the taxes (either because of ownership or because of your lease), the law generally considers you to have standing to contest your assessments, though if you are one of many tenants on a given property, you might first have to approach your landlord to file a grievance. Grievances for most properties in New York must be filed by the fourth Tuesday in May (this year, May 25, 2021), though you should check with your municipality to ensure you have the correct date. If you miss the deadline, you are stuck with assessment until the following year.
Scott Becker and Ryan White focus their practices in property tax assessment, among other areas.
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