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Rhode Island Court Rejects Landowner’s Claim that Tax Was Illegal Assessment

In May 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Rhode Island real estate case discussing the plaintiff’s claim that a tax levied against the plaintiff’s property was illegal. However, the court determined that the tax was not illegal, but technically an “overassessment,” and that the plaintiff failed to timely file a claim. The case goes to show the importance of staying on top of Rhode Island property tax issues and acting quickly when they arise.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a bank that underwrote a mortgage on two parcels of land. One of the parcels was listed as being located in Providence and the other in Cranston. A few years after the mortgage was written, the city’s tax assessor noticed that the Providence parcel was up for a tax sale. The city sold the parcel on July 9, 2015. On June 2, 2016, the plaintiff filed a claim arguing that the tax assessor illegally assessed the parcel and sought injunctive relief, preventing the city from selling the Providence parcel. The plaintiff’s argument was based on the fact that much of the Providence parcel was actually located in Cranston, depriving the City of Providence of the right to assess a tax on the property.

The assessor argued that the plaintiff’s complaint failed to comply with the procedural requirements for tax relief. Specifically, the assessor argued that the relevant statute required a claim be filed within 90 days from the date the first payment of the tax was due. The plaintiff argued that, in cases of an illegally assessed tax, the typical procedural requirements do not apply and that its claim was timely.

The court held that the plaintiff’s case was not timely filed. The court explained that because part of the property was within the City of Providence, the tax may have been an over-assessment, but it was not illegal. The court noted that the relevant statute only provides 90 days from the date the first payment on the tax is due, and that the plaintiff’s claim was filed well after that time frame. Thus, the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed.

The court then went further, holding that even if the tax was illegal, the plaintiff’s claim was still time-barred. The court explained that even when a claim triggers the equity jurisdiction of the Superior Court, as is the case with an illegal assessment, the claim must be filed within three months from the “the last day appointed for the payment, without penalty.” Again, the court explained that this period expired on October 15, 2015, and the plaintiff did not file a claim until June 2, 2016.

Are You Dealing with Complex Real Estate Tax Issues?

If you are currently dealing with complex tax issues related to the ownership of real estate, contact a dedicated Rhode Island real estate attorney at the law firm of Bilodeau Capalbo for assistance. At Bilodeau Capalbo, we have extensive experience handling Rhode Island property tax disputes and other issues related to property ownership, including tenant evictions and property-line disputes. We understand that time is of the essence when it comes to dealing with real estate issues, and take every precaution to ensure that our clients’ rights are protected as we prepare, research, and litigate their claims. To learn more about how we can help you with your situation, call 401-300-4055 to schedule a free consultation today.

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