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MacLeod v. City of Hoboken

May 05, 2000

GERALD C. MACLEOD, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
V.
CITY OF HOBOKEN, HOBOKEN TAX ASSESSOR AND HOBOKEN TAX COLLECTOR, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Before Judges King, Carchman and Lefelt.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: King, P.J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: April 5, 2000

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County.

I.

On April 30, 1999 plaintiff filed an action in lieu of prerogative writs in the Law Division challenging the added assessment on his condominium unit from $65,000 to $153,000. Defendants moved for summary judgment on June 17, 1999, arguing that procedural improprieties barred the claim. Plaintiff cross-moved for summary judgment on July 8, 1999 contending that the added assessment constituted an unconstitutional spot assessment.

On July 29, 1999 the Law Division judge granted plaintiff's summary judgment motion, reinstated the former assessment, and retroactively adjusted all tax bills from November 1988. The judge denied defendants' summary judgment motion. We reverse.

II.

On July 1, 1998 plaintiff bought condominium unit 2R at 230 Park Avenue, Hoboken for $153,000. The unit was assessed for property tax purposes at $65,000. In October 1998, defendant sent plaintiff a notice of added assessment, effective for the second half of 1998 forward. The total new assessment was $153,000.

According to plaintiff, upon his inquiry, defendant assessor stated that the increase reflected the unit's purchase price. Hoboken tax assessor Sal Bonaccorsi certified plaintiff's assessment was not based solely on his purchase price but reflected an earlier partial assessment.

The Law Division judge acknowledged that plaintiff had not filed a tax appeal with the county board of taxation. Concluding, however, that "[d]efendant does not offer any basis for the tax increase levied upon plaintiff's unit," the judge granted summary judgment to plaintiff, finding the added assessment an unconstitutional spot assessment. The judge stated that because a prompt decision was required in the public interest and because spot assessments are clearly unconstitutional, plaintiff was not required to pursue an administrative remedy.

Defendants first contend that N.J.S.A. 54:4-63.11 and N.J.S.A. 54:3-21 provide that property tax assessments must be appealed to the county boards of taxation and the Tax Court. Thus, the Law Division judge lacked jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim. Plaintiff contends that these statutory tax appeal procedures do not apply to him because this is an appeal of an added assessment. He argues that to agree with the City's position would burden him forever with an unconstitutional spot assessment.

"The right to appeal a real property assessment is statutory, and the appellant is required to comply with all applicable statutory requirements." F.M.C. Stores Co. v. Borough of Morris Plains, 195 N.J. Super. 373, 381 (App. Div. 1984), aff'd, 100 N.J. 418 (1985). See also Hovbilt, Inc. v. Township of Howell, 138 N.J. 598, 603 (1994); City of Newark v. Fischer, 3 N.J. 488, 493 (1950). "N.J.S.A. 54:3-21 provides the process by which appeals of tax assessments are to be taken." In re Appeal of Tp. of Monroe From Determination of Local Finance Bd., 289 N.J. Super. 138, 145 (App. Div. 1995), certif. denied, 144 N.J. 172 (1996). The statutory scheme ...


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