Real estate fee hikes spell trouble for buyers, sellers in Long Island
This real estate fee kept going up — until a judge stepped in
Nassau reduces charge after court deems it “unconstitutional tax”
The tax map verification fee is an annoying $355 charge that must be paid to file deeds, mortgages, mortgage satisfactions and other transactions in Nassau County.
Turns out, it was also illegal. Not the fee itself, but the size of it.
Such fees are supposed to only cover the cost of the service, not generate a profit for counties. So in 2016 Jericho’s Jeffrey Falk filed a lawsuit challenging the fees, arguing they were “not reasonably necessary” to maintain the county’s property registry.
In March 2020, a judge ruled the fee was an “unlawful and unconstitutional tax.” A state appellate court affirmed that ruling last week, prompting Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and the legislature to reduce it to $270, Newsday reported.
The fee has been a political football in Nassau County for years.
The Republicans, who control county government, had resisted reducing the fee, because doing so blew a $15 million hole into this year’s budget. But 18 months ago, they voted to eliminate the fee — forcing the Democratic county executive at the time to veto the measure.
Democrats played a similar game, maintaining the fee while in power and blaming the GOP for it when they weren’t. They voted against the reduction.
The reduced fee could still be unlawfully high. The budget director came up with the revised fee by dividing the cost to run the assessment department and the Assessment Review Commission by the number of real estate transactions that require a tax verification letter. But that calculation seems to assume those agencies do no other work. (Insert joke about government workers here.)
The fee was set at $50 in 2012. The legislature kept hiking it, however, to cover operating losses, until it reached $355 in 2017. The county collected more than $95 million in 2021 and 2022 combined.
A similar $200 fee in Suffolk County is also facing legal challenges.
— Holden Walter-Warner