Media Source: Newsday
The letters and postcards have filled Nassau County mailboxes for years with offers of lower assessments, a testament to the niche industry that has thrived by challenging homeowners' property taxes.
Now Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi is inviting residents to throw those letters away - if they hadn't already.
The county has unveiled a way for property owners to challenge their tax assessments online, for free, instead of hiring a company to do the same thing, usually for 50 percent of the expected refund.
While property owners already had the ability to file their own challenges by printing a form from the county Web site and mailing it, this simplifies the process.
'It gives residential property owners a choice,' said Deputy County Executive Arthur Gianelli. 'This makes it much easier to file on their own.'
The process is available to all property owners, but county officials and tax grievance lawyers said commercial property owners, with more complicated assessments and more money at stake, are still likely to hire experts.
It could be more damaging to residential agencies and lawyers who do simpler work and reaped an estimated $17 million from their share of the tax refunds obtained last year, according to Glenn Borin, chairman of Nassau's Assessment Review Commission. Fred Perry, a Dix Hills lawyer who challenges thousands of assessments a year, said he doubted he'd feel the impact soon. 'The process still remains so confusing,' Perry said. 'People are still intimidated.'
The new service, called Assessment Review on the Web, can be found at: www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/ARC/challenge.html.
Property owners can research information such as sales of comparable homes, as well as look at photos and maps.
But Richard Fromewick, a lawyer specializing in tax grievances, said there are pitfalls for the uninformed.
'It's fraught with dangers because we have found over the last several years many mistakes in the information on the assessment Web site,' Fromewick said. County officials said they provide the most accurate information possible.
Since online assessment challenges began in early January, more than 11,000 have been filed.