Property taxpayers who suffered major Hurricane Sandy damage are approaching a crucial deadline.
New Jersey’s annual property taxes are based on the value of a property on Oct. 1 of the preceding tax year. But there is an exception: People whose properties were damaged between Oct. 1 and Jan. 1 may qualify for a reduction on the next year’s taxes.
Certain requirements must be met:
* The damage must have taken place between Oct. 1 and Jan. 1.
* The building must have been destroyed or made significantly less valuable.
* The municipal assessor must be notified before Jan. 10.
Otherwise, most property owners have to wait until the April 1 deadline for tax appeals to seek changes.
The state Division of Taxation has recommended property owners notify their local assessors by certified mail with a return receipt requested, so they have proof the notice was mailed in time to meet deadlines. Property owners should keep a copy of the notice and the evidence mailed.
The division recommended property owners immediately photograph the damage, because an assessor may not be able to quickly visit the property. After the assessor inspects the property, a reduction may be determined.
A standard worksheet distributed by the state details how much can be deducted from the property value. Flooding, for instance, can mean a 5 percent to 30 percent reduction in the assessment of the building, depending on whether there was minimal basement flooding or significant first-floor flooding.
Atlantic County Tax Administrator Marge Schott said she asked every mayor and governing body to post and distribute fliers about declaring damages.
“There are almost certainly people out there who haven’t heard or haven’t completed the process,” Schott’s assistant, Keith Szendrey, acknowledged.
Diane Hesley, the municipal assessor for Somers Point, has been out on Bay Avenue and elsewhere since the storm, helping homeowners figure out how much damage took place.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” she said. “It’s really unprecedented.”
She said her office has looked at flood damage, structural damage and damage to accessory buildings. Sometimes looks can be deceiving.
“I know from going out, you stand and you look at a house, you wouldn’t know that there’s anything wrong with the home,” Hesley said. “And then you open the door, and it looks like Armageddon.”
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