AVR Realty Co. v. Cranford Township

316 N.J. Super. 401, 720 A.2d 434 (App. Div. 1998)
  • Opinion Date: December 1, 1998

TAX APPEALS; FREEZE ACT—An assessor is not barred from opposing a Freeze Act motion where changes allegedly increasing the property’s value were made between the base year assessment date and the freeze year assessment date.

Where a final judgment has been rendered by the tax court involving real property, the judgment is conclusive and binding upon the municipal assessor and the taxing district for the assessment year and for the two assessment years succeeding the assessment year covered by the final judgment, except as to changes in the value of the property occurring after the assessment date. The purpose of the statute that so provides, is to prevent “the repeated yearly increases in the assessed value of the property, not related to, or justified by, any changes increasing its market value.” In June of 1995, the Tax Court entered a judgment reducing a 1993 assessment. In October of 1995, the property owner filed a motion in the Tax Court seeking to have the Freeze Act applied to the tax assessment for 1994. The municipality opposed the motion, but lost because it could not demonstrate that the property owner’s property had increased in value. This was because the construction by which the municipality claimed the property’s value was increased was the subject of a November 4, 1993 certificate of occupancy that was issued after the October 1, 1993 deadline for increasing assessments for 1994.

When the property owner filed another motion in October of 1996 to apply the Freeze Act for the 1995 tax year, the municipality contended that, although it was precluded from raising the assessment on the property for the 1994 tax year, it was permitted to raise the assessment for the 1995 tax year. In this case, the date of the judgment post-dated the October 1, 1993 assessment date for the tax year commencing January 1, 1994, and also post-dated the assessment date of October 1, 1994 for the tax year commencing January 1, 1995. Here, when the property owner filed a complaint seeking to invoke the Freeze Act, the assessor was not barred from opposing it because the changes allegedly increasing the value of the property were made between the base year assessment date and the freeze year assessment date.