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Carr v. Town of New London

Supreme Court of New Hampshire, Merrimack

May 17, 2017

ROBERT CARR & a.
v.
TOWN OF NEW LONDON

          Argued: February 23, 2017

          Hage Hodes, Professional Association, of Manchester (Jay L. Hodes and Katherine E. Hedges on the brief, and Mr. Hodes orally), for the petitioners.

          Upton & Hatfield, LLP, of Concord (Barton L. Mayer and Michael P. Courtney on the brief, and Mr. Mayer orally), for the respondent.

          LYNN, J.

         The respondent, the Town of New London (Town), appeals an order of the Superior Court (McNamara, J.) granting summary judgment to the petitioners, Robert Carr (Carr) and Raoul & Karen, LLC (Raoul & Karen), in their appeal of the Town's denial of their request for a property tax abatement pursuant to RSA 76:16 (Supp. 2016). We affirm.

         I

         The pertinent facts are as follows. During the 2014 tax year, Carr owned property located at 29 Boulder Point Road in New London from April 1, 2014[1], to December 20, 2014, at which time he sold the property to Raoul & Karen.[2]The house on the property was struck by lightning and burned to the ground on July 1, 2014, leaving only a few outbuildings on the property. As a result of the house's destruction, the petitioners could not use it for 272 of the 365 days of the 2014 tax year. The Town assessed the house at $688, 000 for that tax year.

         The year prior to the house's destruction, a statute came into effect that provided for prorated tax assessments for buildings damaged under certain conditions. See RSA 76:21 (Supp. 2016). RSA 76:21 provides, in relevant part:

I. Whenever a taxable building is damaged due to unintended fire or natural disaster to the extent that it renders the building not able to be used . . . the assessing officials shall prorate the assessment for the building for the current tax year.
. . . .
III. A person aggrieved of a property tax for a building damaged as provided in paragraph I shall file an application with the assessing officials in writing within 60 days of the event described in paragraph I.
. . . .
VI. Nothing in this section shall limit the ability of the assessing officials to abate taxes for good cause shown pursuant to RSA 76:16.

         The petitioners did not apply for a proration of their property tax assessment under RSA 76:21. Rather, they petitioned the Town for property tax abatement under RSA 76:16 in January 2015, about six months after the home's destruction. RSA 76:16 states that "[s]electmen or assessors, for good cause shown, may abate ...


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