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September 2, 2010

New York Supreme Court Determines that a Hospital Use Real Estate Tax Exemption is Defined by the Public Health Law and Applies to Portions of a Property Used as an Extension Clinic

New York Real Property Tax Law ("RPTL") § 420-a mandates that for a property owned by an entity organized exclusively for hospital purposes that is used exclusively for such purposes, a real estate tax exemption must be granted. In situations where only a portion of the property at issue is used exclusively for hospital purposes, the owner is entitled to a partial real estate tax exemption based on the proportion of the property, on a square foot ("SF") basis, that is devoted exclusively to hospital purposes. By Decision and Order dated August 12, 2010, the New York Supreme Court, Wayne County, Hon. Kenneth R. Fisher, J.S.C., concluded that the Petitioner ViaHealth of Wayne ("Petitioner") was entitled to partial real estate tax exemption based on the SF proportion of its property in the Town of Sodus ("Town") that is used exclusively for hospital purposes for each of the tax years in question.

In short, the Court concluded that Petitioner is entitled to summary judgment on the issue of its entitlement to a mandatory real estate tax exemption under RPTL § 420-a because its organizational structure fulfilled the broad definition of "hospital" found in Public Health Law § 2801. In so concluding, the Court rejected the Town's contention that the Public Health Law's broad definition of "hospital" did not apply when determining a hospital use real estate tax exemption under RPTL § 420-a. The Court set forth the following:

Here, petitioner establishes prima facie that the Public Health Law definition of hospital is properly used in making an analysis under RPTL § 420-a. There is decisional law supporting petitioner's position that the Public Health Law definition may be used in making a RPTL § 420-a analysis, and respondent brings before the court no compelling decisional law in this jurisdiction to the contrary.

Id. at 10 (emphasis added, internal citations omitted).

While the Court concluded that Petitioner was organized exclusively for hospital purposes, it also determined that because a portion of the property was used exclusively as an extension clinic of Rochester General Hospital ("RGH") where RGH employs salaried physicians to treat RGH patients, Petitioner was entitled to an RPTL § 420-a mandatory use partial real estate tax exemption. In so concluding, the Court distinguished the Property's use from that found in Genesee Hospital v. Wagner, 47 A.D.2d 37 (4th Dep't 1975). In Genesee Hospital, the Fourth Department concluded that the taxpayer hospital was not entitled to a hospital use exemption for its medical office building because the doctors therein were private practitioners and not hospital-salaried physicians who used the property as a medical office building to treat private-pay patients. Here, the Court concluded that Petitioner was entitled to a hospital use exemption because "the physicians working in this capacity are salaried employees of RGH working in an extension clinic, nor merely a doctor's office building." Id. at 11.

Finally, the Court followed established law to conclude that the failure to file an application for a real estate tax exemption with the Assessor does not abnegate its entitlement to have the property declared exempt under RPTL § 420-a.

If you require further information regarding the information presented in this Legal Alert and its impact on your organization, please contact any of the members of the Practice Area.


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