Massachusetts Appeals Court Finds for Landowners Challenging Property Valuation

In a recent decision, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts reviewed a decision from the Tax Board affirming the plaintiffs’ property valuation as determined by the local board of assessors. In Sliski v. Bd. of Assessors of Lincoln, 45 N.E.3d 612 (Mass. App. Ct. 2016), the plaintiffs owned two parcels of land, a larger parcel of over 4.5 acres used for agricultural purposes, and a small parcel of just less than one acre upon which the plaintiffs’ residence was located. The plaintiffs had previously received an agricultural exemption for the large parcel twenty-five years ago. However, in calculating the assessment, the local board of assessors applied a multiplier of 9.00 to the value of $7.20 per square foot for the small parcel. This resulted in an appraisal of the small parcel at a rate of over $2.8 million per acre. The plaintiffs challenged the assessment, arguing that it did not accurately reflect the value of the small parcel, nor the value of the land as a whole due to the agricultural exemption.

On appeal, the court found that the Board did not appear to have considered the methodology in reviewing the town’s valuation of the small parcel. The court was particularly concerned by the use of the 9.00 multiplier. The court noted that the town’s residential land valuation document stated that a factor of 1.00 should be applied to property within the neighborhood in which the small parcel is located. Further, the document did not include a factor of 9.00 for any property, as the highest factor listed was 1.91. The court therefore could not affirm a decision by the Board that did not appear to consider the Massachusetts statute requiring that all land occupied by a dwelling be valued, assessed, and taxed by the same standards as other taxable property.

In Massachusetts, agricultural land is generally assessed at a significantly lower rate than land on which real property with dwellings is typically assessed. The plaintiffs argued that the unexplained factor of 9.00 on the small parcel was used to impermissibly offset the tax exemption of the agricultural designation of their large parcel. The court agreed with the plaintiffs, finding that the argument raised by the plaintiffs was supported by the record, and that the agricultural property was not properly reflected in the valuation as a whole. The court ultimately vacated the Board’s decision and remanded the matter for further consideration in light of its findings.

If you are seeking comprehensive legal guidance for a property issue, a qualified real estate attorney may be able to assist you. At the Massachusetts firm of Pulgini & Norton, our seasoned real estate attorneys advise individuals in a wide range of property law matters, including land use and zoning matters, easements, and other land transactions. To discuss your real estate needs with one of our attorneys, call (781) 843-2200 or contact us online.

More Blog Posts:

Appeals Court of Massachusetts Affirms Denial of Tax Abatement in Real Estate Case, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published June 17, 2015

Massachusetts Appeals Court Upholds ATB Decision in Tax Abatement Case, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published March 19, 2015

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