LEGAL Q&A: Assessing Re-Assessments

Jonathan Cowal, Municipal Services Counsel

Over the past 5 years, there are few things that have changed more than property values. We have seen a nationwide housing price boom causing prices to skyrocket and fundamentally changing our expectations of what a typical house should be valued at. New Hampshire has not been exempt from this fluctuation and as a result, many communities, both big and small, have seen dramatic changes in residential property values. Someone who purchased a home for $300,000 in 2020 may have seen the value of that house increase by close to $100,000 each year. This presents unique challenges for municipalities when it comes to properly evaluating property values for tax assessments. Many questions have arisen over the past few years about the proper legal process and procedures used to address this situation.  

Q. How often are municipalities required to reappraise real estate within the municipality
A. RSA 75:8-a requires municipalities to reappraise real estate within the municipality at least once every 5 years. The statute states the following:

75:8-a Five-Year Valuation. – 
The assessors and/or selectmen shall reappraise all real estate within the municipality so that the assessments are at full and true value at least as often as every fifth year, beginning with the later of either of the following: 
I. The first year a municipality's assessments were reviewed by the commissioner of the department of revenue administration pursuant to RSA 21-J:3, XXVI and the municipality's assessments were determined to be in accordance with RSA 75:1; or 
II. The municipality conducted a full revaluation monitored by the department of revenue administration pursuant to RSA 21-J:11, II, provided that the full revaluation was effective on or after April 1, 1999. 

Q. Can any other entity order or compel a municipality to conduct and pay for a town wide reassessment?
A: Yes, in the event that the 5-year review reveals a town’s assessments are grossly disproportionate to current market values, the BTLA (Board of Tax & Land Appeals) may call for a reassessment. Under RSA 71-B:16 the BTLA may order a reassessment of taxes previously assessed under the following five situations: 

  1. when a specific complaint is filed by one party against the property of another;
  2. when it comes to the BTLA's attention from any source that a particular parcel has been improperly, unequally or illegally assessed;
  3. when the BTLA determines, on its own, that any or all of the property in a municipality must be reassessed;
  4. when a petition is filed by at least 50 property taxpayers or 1/3 of the property taxpayers in the municipality, requesting the BTLA to order a municipal-wide reassessment; and
  5. when the commissioner of revenue administration files a petition pursuant to RSA 21-J:3, XXV. 

When the BTLA receives a petition for reassessment or the board initiates a proceeding pursuant to RSA 71-B:16 , the rules state that the BTLA must notify the municipality, have the municipality verify that the petitioners are taxpayers in the municipality ( if the reassessment was initiated by petition) and the BTLA will hold a show cause hearing to determine whether the municipality should be ordered to perform a municipal-wide reassessment. At the hearing, the petitioner, taxpayers and the municipality shall have an opportunity to be heard. 

Q. What does a reassessment entail?
A. A general reassessment means the process undertaken by a municipality to reassess all property in the municipality, and which includes collecting anew or verifying existing physical data through reinspection and remeasurement, analyzing market data, and appraising all property at the same percentage of market value. It does not include annual or periodic adjustments to assessments that are the result of a simple factoring or multiplication of existing assessments without an accompanying market analysis.

Q. What are the procedures that need to be followed when a municipality is ordered to perform a reassessment?
A. RSA 71-B:17 outlines the proper procedures for an assessment or reassessment. That statute states the following: 

71-B:17 Procedure for. –  
When ordered to make an assessment or reassessment the selectmen or assessors shall make it within such time as the board orders. If a town meeting or a city council prior to the expiration of the time prescribed in the order votes to have a complete appraisal or reappraisal made of all of the taxable property in the town or city, under terms and conditions satisfactory to the board, then the order of the board is suspended until such time as the appraisal or reappraisal is completed. If the appraisal or reappraisal is satisfactory to the board the order shall be removed. If the assessment or reassessment is not made in conformity with the order, except as above provided, or if it is not satisfactory to the board, the board may certify the order to the commissioner of revenue administration who shall cause the reappraisal to be made by his department or by professional appraisers employed for the purpose. The commissioner of revenue administration is authorized to incur the expense of the appraisal and to certify the cost thereof to the governor who shall draw his warrant on the state treasury out of any money not otherwise appropriated authorizing payment of the sum so certified. 

If ordered to perform a municipal-wide reassessment, the municipality will be required to file periodic progress reports with the board outlining the steps taken to comply with the order.  Once the reassessment has been completed, if the board determines the municipality complied with the reassessment order and completed an acceptable reassessment, the board shall issue a final order to such effect.   

On the other hand, if the municipality has not complied with the order to conduct an acceptable reassessment the BTLA can certify  its order to the DRA (Department of Revenue Administration), then RSA 21-J:9-c shall apply. That statute states: 

21-J:9-c Orders for Reassessment. – 
The following provisions shall govern cases in which the board of tax and land appeals has certified an order for reassessment to the department pursuant to RSA 71-B:17: 
I. The commissioner may contract for the services of certified appraisers as needed to complete such reassessments in compliance with any certified orders of the board of tax and land appeals. 
II. All reasonable expenses incurred by the department in completing a reassessment shall be paid in the first instance from the appropriation for the department, but each city, town, or county in the case of an unincorporated place, shall, upon notification by the commissioner of the amount due, reimburse the department for such expenses incurred as follows: 
(a) The expenses for completing a reassessment, including, but not limited to, salaries of staff of the department for such time as the staff have spent on the reassessment, with the exception of expenses incurred by the department in the supervision and monitoring of appraisals pursuant to RSA 21-J:11, shall be reimbursed; and 
(b) The amount of such reimbursement to the department shall, without vote of the municipality, be assessed and collected. 


Jonathan Cowal is the Municipal Services Counsel with the New Hampshire Municipal Association. He may be contacted at 603.224.7447 or at