New legislation may lighten the load on co-op owners, while leaving their wallets heavy.
According to Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, property owners can currently fight city tax assessments through a “certiorari” process, but they said it is often costly and incurs “excessive legal fees.”
“As a co-op shareholder, I understand this problem firsthand,” Stavisky said. “Inaccurate assessments and the high taxes they bring can cause serious problems for co-op boards and residents.”
That’s why the pair introduced legislation that, if passed, could see co-ops paying only 75 percent of their legal fees in a successful certiorari suit. The law would also stabilize assessments for two years following a successful challenge, capping spikes at 3 percent to prevent the necessity of an additional proceeding, officials said.
“Co-op shareholders deserve the right to have their day in court,” Stavisky said. “These bills will allow meritorious challenges and help ease the fear of inconsistent and inaccurate assessments. This legislation would encourage the city to be more careful when preparing projected assessments by having them pay 25 percent of the legal fees in a successful challenge. That change will have a tremendous impact on the quality of life in New York’s co-ops.”
Taxes are expected to rise by 7.5 percent for co-op owners this year, according to a summary report released by the Department of Finance (DOF). Last year, some co-op and condo valuations saw astronomical increases as high as 147 percent, and according to civic leaders in northeast Queens, some properties in the area — including Deepdale Gardens and Alley Pond — continue to suffer high double-digit spikes and some increases by more than 50 percent again this year.
“Many cooperatives and condominiums pay up to 35 percent of the savings gained through certiorari in fees to attorneys. There is no doubt that the fees are punitive in nature,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “Certiorari filings not only appeal property valuations, they seek to correct assessment errors made by the city’s DOF. This legislation will level the playing field and ease what is already a heavy financial burden placed upon the shoulders of middle class residents living in cooperatives and condominiums.”
According to James Goldstick, managing agent for Bay Terrace Section 8, some co-ops will spend up to $35,000 in legal fees this year after shelling out close to $37,000 during last year’s tax certiorari settlements.
“It is outrageous that northeast Queens residents not only have been hit with monstrous assessment hikes during this difficult fiscal period, but that they also have to continue to bear the burden of inaccurate decisions made by the DOF,” Braunstein said.
The property tax increases are slated to take effect in July. Councilmember Dan Halloran called on the city to extend the March 1 deadline to contest valuations to March 15. However, DOF officials did not confirm whether or not the additional two weeks were granted.