|October 13, 2012|
Previously published on Fall 2012
Stamford Windustrial Company brought a tax appeal to challenge the value of the property it leased at 54 Sunnyside Avenue in Stamford. It claimed that it was obliged to pay real estate taxes on the property, but did not assert that its lease or a notice of its lease was recorded on the Stamford Land Records and, in fact, none was recorded.
The applicable appeal statute confers upon the lessee of real estate the ability to appeal its ad valorem assessment if its lease or a notice of lease is recorded. Pouncing on the company’s failure to record its lease, the City of Stamford moved to dismiss the appeal. Judge Trial Referee David Tobin agreed.
In a careful review of the legislative history that led up to the creation of the right of a real property lessee to appeal an ad valorem assessment, Judge Tobin concluded that the General Assembly clearly meant to extend that option only to lessees with recorded leases or notices. “In the absence of broader language, it is clear that the legislature intended to leave the holding of (a Supreme Court decision which had ruled that lessees have no tax appeal rights at all) intact with respect to unrecorded leases.”
There are other Superior Court rulings which do not enforce the recording requirement as stringently. In particular, a decision by Judge Trial Referee Arnold W. Aronson several years ago concluded that knowledge by the town of the lessee’s status - as lessee - and its payment of real estate taxes could be asserted to blunt the exclusionary impact of the statute discussed by Judge Tobin. To the extent there is a conflict over this issue in various trial court decisions, resolution must await further examination by either the Appellate Court or the Supreme Court.
However, in light of the Appellate Court’s decision in Megin v. Town of New Milford several years ago, it is abundantly clear that no one other than the record title owner or the lessee of a record title holder has the right to institute a real estate tax appeal.
Stamford Windustrial Co. v. City of Stamford, Docket No. CV-116009771 (July 5, 2012).