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The 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

AN ACT CONCERNING LONG-TERM HOMEOWNERS IN THE CITY OF BOSTON.

     Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:
     SECTION 1.  Notwithstanding section 5 of chapter 59 of the General Laws or any general or special law to the contrary, the assessing department of the city of Boston shall implement a tax deferral program for long-term residents of the city of Boston.
     SECTION 2.  (a) The assessing department of the city of Boston shall defer the real estate property tax payment, to an amount determined in accordance with this section, of a person who owns real property in the city of Boston and is 55 years of age or older as of July 1 of the tax year; or of a person who owns real property in the city of Boston jointly with a spouse, either of whom is 55 years of age or older; or of a person who owns real property in the city of Boston jointly or as a tenant in common with a person who is not their spouse, either of whom is 55 years of age or older; provided, however, that such person has been domiciled in the commonwealth for the preceding 10 years; and:  (i) has owned and occupied the same real property as that person’s domicile for 10 consecutive years; or (ii) is a surviving spouse who inherited that real property and has occupied the real property as their domicile for 10 consecutive years and who otherwise qualifies under this act.
     (b)  To qualify for a tax deferral under this act, the real estate tax due on the property for which the deferral is sought, as reduced by abatements and exemptions, if any, for the year in question shall have increased by not less than 10 per cent over the prior year's real estate tax due, as reduced by abatements and exemptions, if any.
     (c)  A tax deferral under this act shall not be allowed to an individual with an income that is more than the applicable limit on that taxpayer’s total income established in clause (i) of paragraph (3) of subsection (k) of section 6 of chapter 62 of the General Laws and adjusted pursuant to paragraph (4) of said subsection (k) of said section 6 of said chapter 62.  As used in this act, income shall have the same meaning as taxpayer’s total income, as defined in paragraph (1) of said subsection (k) of said section 6 of said chapter 62.
     (d)  In determining the total period of ownership of an applicant for deferral under this act, the time during which the same property was owned by a husband or wife individually shall be added to the period during which such property was owned by that husband and wife jointly.
     SECTION 3.  (a) A person eligible for the tax deferral program authorized by this act may, not later than 3 months after the date on which the bill or notice of assessment was sent or by April 1 of the tax year, whichever is later, apply to the board of assessors of the city of Boston for a deferral of all or part of the real property from taxation during that year; provided, however, that in the case of real property owned by a person jointly or as a tenant in common with a person who is not their spouse, the deferral shall not be more than that proportion of total valuation which the amount of that person’s interest in the property bears to the whole tax due. The board of assessors shall grant the deferral, provided that the owner of the real property has entered into a tax deferral and recovery agreement with the board of assessors on behalf of the city of Boston. The tax deferral and recovery agreement shall provide that:  (i) no sale or transfer of the real property may be consummated unless the taxes which would otherwise have been assessed on the exempt portion of the real property have been paid, with interest at the rate of 4 per cent per annum or such lesser or higher rate as may be determined by the legislative body of the city of Boston, subject to its charter, not later than the beginning of the fiscal year to which the tax relates; (ii) the total amount of taxes due, plus interest, for the current and prior years is not more than 50 per cent of the owner's proportional share of the full and fair cash value of the real property; (iii) upon the demise of the owner of the real property, the heirs-at-law, assignees or devisees shall have first priority to the real property by paying in full the total taxes which would otherwise have been due, plus interest; provided, however, that if such heir-at-law, assignee or devisee is a surviving spouse who enters into a tax deferral and recovery agreement under this act, payment of the taxes and interest due shall not be required during the life of that surviving spouse. Any additional taxes deferred, plus interest, on the real property pursuant to a tax deferral and recovery agreement signed by a surviving spouse shall be added to the taxes and interest which would otherwise have been due and the payment of which has been postponed during the life of that surviving spouse in determining the 50 per cent requirement of clause (ii); (iv) if the taxes due, plus interest, are not paid by the heir-at-law, assignee or devisee or if payment is not postponed during the life of a surviving spouse, such taxes and interest shall be recovered from the estate of the owner; and (v) any joint owner or mortgagee holding a mortgage on the real property has given written prior approval for the agreement, which shall be made a part of the agreement.
     (b)  In the case of each tax deferral and recovery agreement entered into between the board of assessors of the city of Boston and the owner of such real property, the board of assessors shall forthwith cause to be recorded in the registry of deeds of the county or district in which the city or town is situated a statement of their action which shall constitute a lien upon the land covered by the agreement for such taxes as have been assessed pursuant to this act, plus interest. A lien filed pursuant to this act shall be subsequent to any liens securing a reverse mortgage, excepting shared appreciation instruments. The statement shall name the owner and shall include a description of the land adequate for identification. Such a statement shall be recorded or the lien shall not be effective with respect to a bona fide purchaser or other transferee without actual knowledge of the lien. The filing fee for the statement shall be paid by the city of Boston and shall be added to and become a part of the taxes due.
     (c)  In addition to the remedies provided by this act, the recorded statement of the assessors provided for in this section shall have the same force and effect as a valid taking for nonpayment of taxes pursuant to section 53 of chapter 60 of the General Laws, provided that:  (i) interest shall accrue at the rate provided in this act until the conveyance of the property or the death of the person whose taxes have been deferred, after which time interest shall accrue at the rate provided in section 62 of said chapter 60; (ii) no assignment of the city of Boston's interest may be made pursuant to section 52 of said chapter 60; and (iii) no petition pursuant to section 65 of chapter 60 to foreclose the lien may be filed until 6 months after the conveyance of the property or the death of the person whose taxes have been deferred.
     SECTION 4.  This act shall take effect as of July 1, 2016.
     SECTION 5.  The authority to grant a deferral pursuant to this act shall expire on June 30, 2018 unless extended by a vote of the Boston city council with the approval of the mayor.

Approved, January 6, 2017