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Rhode Island Supreme Court Decides Plaintiff Lacks Standing to Bring Tax Appeal

Not just any person can file a claim in court. In order to bring a lawsuit, the plaintiff must have the legal ability to bring the claim. This is referred to as “standing.” The state’s high court recently heard a Rhode Island real estate case in which the court decided that a plaintiff did not have standing to bring a lawsuit challenging a tax assessment.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was the owner of a property in Barrington, Rhode Island. He filed a complaint appealing the tax assessment of his property, based on the allegedly unfair tax assessment of a development in the same town. The plaintiff contended that he was forced to pay a higher tax on his property because a Rhode Island tax policy that favored the development, which was a low- and moderate-income housing development. The town granted the development a tax of eight percent of gross rental income. Such a tax was permitted under Rhode Island Laws Section 44-5-13.11 because the development was comprised of restricted-income housing.

The plaintiff sued the town, the development, and its company, arguing that his property was overtaxed due to the under-taxing of the development.

The court decided that the plaintiff did not have standing to sue the development and the town. Standing refers to the ability of a person or entity to bring a claim. Generally, this means that the party must have a personal stake in the outcome of the case. The Rhode Island Supreme Court has stated that standing considers whether a party has “alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to ensure concrete adverseness that sharpens the presentation of the issues.” Standing requires that the party has an injury that is “concrete and particularized” and “actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.” The court has also stated that in the context of tax appeals, a taxpayer has standing if the party has a personal interest in the outcome apart from the interests shared by general taxpayers or community members.

The court held that the plaintiff did not have a personal interest in the matter beyond the interest shared by general taxpayers. The court explained that the plaintiff’s increase in taxes vis-à-vis a supposed illegal tax break for the development is not unique. All taxpayers in the town of Barrington share the burden of taxes because of the development’s tax break. Therefore, the plaintiff did not have standing to sue and could not challenge the tax break of the development.

Contact an Experienced Rhode Island Real Estate Lawyer

Real estate litigation can be complex and prolonged. If you need a Rhode Island real estate attorney, you should consult with an attorney who has extensive experience handling real estate cases. The attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC have over 35 years of collective experience representing clients in Rhode Island real estate cases, including foreclosure, title issues, adverse possession claims, purchase and sale agreements, and zoning. If you need assistance with a pending real estate issue, consult with one of our knowledgeable attorneys by calling 401-300-4055, or you can contact us through our online form.

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