Volume 1 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 79
Aged exemption (ownership - title) - Real Property Tax Law, § 467:
An otherwise qualified aged person who is the recipient of public assistance and who has transferred the title to his residence to a public welfare official may be entitled to the partial exemption granted by section 467 of the Real Property Tax Law.
Our opinion has been requested as to whether property, which is the residence of an aged person who otherwise qualifies for exemption under section 467, is entitled to exemption if title to the property is in the name of the County Department of Social Services.
Section 106 of the Social Services Law provides that a public welfare official may accept a deed for assistance and care given to a person at public expense. The law further provides that such property shall not be considered as public property and shall remain on the tax rolls. The person who gives a deed to the public welfare official may redeem the property by the payment of any expenses incurred for his interest and for repairs and taxes on the property.
Despite the transfer of record title to the public welfare official, such official is not the owner but merely holds a security interest in the property. The equity of redemption remains with the welfare recipient. He has the right to redeem title to the property provided that he reimburses the social welfare district for any expenses incurred, including the taxes on the property (1947, Op.Att'y.Gen. 257). It is the opinion of this office and of the Department of Social Services that this equity of redemption is sufficient to satisfy the ownership requirement of section 467 of the Real Property Tax Law.
A welfare recipient, who, by change in circumstances, is able to exercise his right of redemption, must repay various expenditures made on his behalf, including real property taxes. If section 467 did not apply to this property, the welfare recipient would be required to pay more real property taxes than he would have been required to pay to the locality if he had not required assistance, It was not the intention of the Legislature that the benefits of section 467 should not be available to such person who is in need of public assistance.
It is not unusual that a personal exemption from real property tax be granted to a person who is not the record owner of the property. The law is well settled that a person in possession of real property under an executory contract of sale, or a person who possesses a life estate in real property may qualify for exemption from real property tax on the property which he occupies, even though he is not owner of the record title.
Accordingly, it is our opinion that the recipient of public assistance, who has transferred the title to his residence to a public welfare official, may qualify for the 50 percent exemption under section 467 of the Real Property Tax Law if he meets the age, income, use and residence requirements and has owned the property for 60 consecutive months prior to application, including the period that title to the property may have been held by the public welfare official. Of course, the recipient of public assistance should sign the application for exemption, and such application should be submitted by him or on his behalf by the County Department of Social Services.
April 12, 1968