Appellate Court: Contract Purchasers Have Standing to File Tax Appeal

by: Anthony F. Della Pelle
11 Jul 2013

The New Jersey Appellate Division reversed a Tax Court judge’s decision to dismiss a contract purchaser’s tax appeal because the purchaser was not the owner of the subject property at the time the appeal was filed.  The property was under a contract of sale in December 2011 with an expected closing date of February 2012.  However, to protect its interest, the purchaser filed a tax appeal in March 2012 even though the sale did not close until May 2012, which falls past the April 1st filing deadline.  In August 2012, Lawrence Township moved to dismissed the complaint for want of subject matter jurisdiction, because the purchaser was not a “taxpayer feeling aggrieved by the assessed valuation” for purposes of N.J.S.A. 54:3-21.  The purchaser objected by arguing that it was responsible for the 2012 taxes when the complaint was filed.  The Tax Court dismissed the matter, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Division’s opinion, after discussing the low bar to establish standing, distinguished Mobil v. Mansfield Twp., 15 N.J. Tax 583 (Tax 1996), aff’d, 17 N.J. Tax 509 (App. Div. 1997), which held that a contract purchaser was not permitted to intervene in a pending tax appeal that had been filed by Mobil as the owner of the property because no contract of sale had even been contemplated as of the date of the filing deadline.  Moreover, Mobil had reached a settlement in the appeal which had been pending for over a year before the purchaser sought to intervene to interfere with the settlement being finalized.

It is clear from the recent Lawrence Township opinion that the Appellate Division found important the facts that the contract anticipated a closing before the filing deadline, and that an actual closing occurred.  They did state however that not every contract purchaser will have standing, and that the facts must be reviewed for each unique case.

A copy of the Tax Court’s opinion in Omega Self Storage of NJ, LLC, v. Twp. of Lawrence may be found here.

For more blog posts on standing to file an appeal, please see the following:

NJ Supreme Court: Failure to Name Correct Plaintiff Not Fatal to Tax Appeal

Tenant Entitled to Tax Refund, But No More

Tax Court Clarifies Taxpayers’ Need to Pay Property Taxes While Under Appeal