Property Owners Score Legal Victory in Scarborough Property Tax Abatement Case
Murray, Plumb & Murray attorney John B. Shumadine, Esq. represents 34 residents of Scarborough, Maine, in a case challenging the town’s practice of giving property tax breaks to some homeowners for adjacent lots that they own. On August 16, 2016, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court found that this practice is both illegal and discriminatory.
“The town gave substantial discounts worth tens of thousands of dollars to people solely because they owned more than one lot,” said Shumadine. “The Maine Supreme Court agreed with our argument that the town had no basis for granting those discounts and discriminated against our clients.”
The appellants had unsuccessfully sought abatements from the Town Assessor and the Scarborough Board of Review in 2013. Shumadine represented the group when they filed a 2014 complaint with the Superior Court (Cumberland County) in which the court concluded they did not have standing to seek remedial relief. He went on to appeal that decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Maine State law does allow contiguously owned property to be combined for assessment purposes. However, the law does not allow combined property to be assessed below market value. In their finding, the Maine Supreme Court justices noted, “Maine law does not permit the town to engage in the fiction of treating separate smaller abutting lots as if they were a single larger lot, which results in an assessment that does not reflect just value.”
The recent win paves the way for the property owners to seek property tax rebates from the town for four years of unjust property tax assessments made in 2012 to 2015. Shumadine will present an argument outlining what kind of abatement the homeowners are entitled to at a November hearing before the Scarborough Assessment Board.
Maine law firm Murray, Plumb & Murray has helped individuals, entrepreneurs, and businesses successfully navigate legal issues since 1973. Attorneys at this mid-sized firm are known as relentless client advocates who go beyond winning to help shape the law they practice and improve the community they serve. The firm’s practice areas include: Business and Corporate; Business Reorganization; Construction; Criminal Defense; Education; Employment; Environmental and Land Use; Estate Planning and Probate; Intellectual Property, Media and Technology; Litigation and Trial; and Public Utilities.