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Sandy-Damaged Property Could Receive Tax Assessment Reduction

Necessary forms available on Bernards Township website.

Somerset County property owners who suffered “material damage” as a direct result of Superstorm Sandy may qualify for a reduction of property assessment for 2013.

Normally, all properties are valued in the condition in which they existed on October 1 of the pretax year, or as of October 1, 2012 for the upcoming 2013 tax year. However, there is an exception to this law, which applies when a property suffers “material damage” such as a major fire or other significant damage after October 1 of 2012 and before January 1 of 2013.

In such circumstances, property owners would be required to notify the tax assessor of their town in writing, prior to January 10 of 2013, in order to receive an assessment adjustment.

Those seeking information can contact the Bernards Township Assessor’s Office at 908-204-3082, or the office of the Somerset County Tax Administrator, at 908-541-5701.

The Bernards Township website also has instructions for filing for a reduction and necessary forms available for downloading.

As a result of Sandy — according to information from Somerset County that is posted on the Bernards Township website — the state has given assessors instructions to actively seek out property owners who may have difficulty providing this notice due to hardship associated with the storm.

Written notice is still required, but in some cases the local assessor will able to proactively identify eligible properties and apply an adjustment for those properties which may have been extensively damaged, left uninhabitable or totally destroyed. This is being done in recognition of the extreme hardship placed upon some property owners who have lost their homes or temporarily are unable to occupy their homes.

In Somerset County, because the damages are generally more limited in nature than in the shore municipalities, the assessors face a difficult task in being able to establish which properties are damaged and to what extent they are damaged, according to the posted information.

Therefore, it is important for any property owner who has suffered significant damage to write or email the municipal assessor and let them know their name, address, phone number, block and lot, and the nature and extent of the damages suffered due to this storm.

For those with repair cost estimates, let the assessor know and make these estimates readily available to the assessor.

"You should do this as soon as possible and no later than January 10 of 2013," the website advises. The form on the website has been prepared which will be of assistance in providing this information and is available below.

Those who will complete repairs by January 1 of 2013 do not need to contact the assessor as no adjustment should be made under such a circumstance.

However, those who will continue to have a significantly damaged property beyond January 1 will want to contact your assessor.

"There is no other way that any assessor can be certain that they have identified all of the significantly damaged properties in their towns," the notice said. The notice added that any property receiving a damage adjustment will be subject to an added assessment once the repairs are completed.

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