100% Disabled Veterans Qualify for 100% Real Estate Tax Exemption When VA Provides Funds

Appeal of Town of Belmont
New Hampshire Supreme Court No. 2018-0217
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

In 1998, Louis Nordle and his wife acquired a summer camp in Belmont. In 2007, he demolished the home and built a new home. In 2015, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determined that Nordle was totally and permanently disabled due to his service-connected disabilities. In 2016, Nordle receive a “Specially Adapted Housing Grant” from the VA and used the funds to modify his home to accommodate his service-connected disability. In 2017, he applied to the town for an exemption from property taxes pursuant to RSA 72:36-a. The town denied his request, relying on New Hampshire Department of Revenue guidance stating that the VA “had to help ‘purchase’ the home not adapt it.”

Nordle appealed to the Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA), arguing that the requirement under RSA 72:36-a that the specially adapted home be “acquired” with the assistance of the VA means more than merely “purchased” with the assistance of the VA. The BTLA agreed with Nordle.

The town appealed. In interpreting the statute, the Supreme Court found that the word “acquired” was ambiguous and could be interpreted either as the town believed or as Nordle countered. Therefore, the Court examined the legislative history of the statute and found that it was meant to mirror the federal statute allowing the VA to provide assistance to 100% disabled veterans due to service-connected disabilities. The federal statute supported Nordle’s interpretation, and the Court broadened the word “acquired” in the context of RSA 72:36-a to mean the following: (1) constructing a housing unit on land either to be acquired or previously acquired by the veteran; (2) remodeling a dwelling previously acquired by the individual; or (3) receive compensation “where the individual has acquired a suitable housing unit.” In other words, construction done with funds provided by the VA for specially adapting housing or already adapted housing paid for with VA funds result in the dwelling qualifying for an exemption under RSA 72:36-a.