Combining real property parcels

A process for property owners.

Each year every local city or township assessor is required to perform a large number of tasks as part of the annual assessment roll process. One of these tasks is the review of individual parcels and their legal descriptions. To better understand this process, this article provides a step-by-step overview of what this entails.

First, parcels must be listed and described on the assessment roll as to the nature of the respective property. In other words, a parcel in a platted subdivision will be listed by the plat’s name and lot number such as “Smith Gardens, Lot 1, Block 1”. A larger parcel with a metes and bounds description could be described as being in part of the Northeast (NE) Quarter (1/4) of the Northwest (NW) Quarter (1/4) of Section 1 with a defined point of beginning (POB) and actual dimensions moving around the perimeter of the parcel back to the point of beginning (POB). Each parcel is required to be described on the roll and will generate its own assessment notice and tax bill. 

When a person owns more than one parcel, can two or more parcels be combined into a single parcel for assessing and tax purposes? The answer is yes under certain circumstances. In the event an assessor determines that two or more parcels should be combined, a combination process is explained in the Michigan Assessors Manual Volume III. The current edition of this manual is from February 2018. The three (3) volumes of the assessor manuals are published by the State Tax Commission as guidance to all Michigan assessing officers.

An assessor-initiated combination process “requires that permission be obtained from the owner prior to combining and assessing as one valuation. ‘The assessing authority shall send a notice of intent to assess the parcels by 1 valuation to the owner or owners. Permission shall be considered obtained if there is no negative response within 30 days following the notice of intent.’”

If a property owner wishes to have parcels combined, then a discussion with the local city or township assessor is certainly in order. A written request by the owner to the local assessor is usually sufficient; however, some units may require an actual form while others may accept a simple letter. Again, an owner should contact their local assessor in advance to discuss the written process in their own jurisdiction.

For combination of parcels, the State Tax Commission (STC) has interpreted this process to be for “contiguously owned parcels”. The STC has further opined that “non-contiguous parcels” would include those “split by a railroad or highway right-of-way” and these parcels cannot be combined into a single description. The STC does explain one exception to the “right of way” rule.  “It has been the recommendation of the STC that these (non-contiguous) parcels be assessed under one valuation in rural areas.”

While two or more parcels may be combined into a single parcel for assessing and tax purposes, there are requirements to be met. A property owner should discuss any such combinations requests with their local assessor for detailed information as to the process and information requirements in their local unit.

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