BELMONT — The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled that the town of Belmont erred in denying a real estate tax exemption to a disabled Vietnam veteran.
Belmont had petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the New Hampshire Bureau of Tax and Land Appeals’ decision that the Robin M. Nordle 2003 Trust qualified for a 100 percent exemption for a home that had been remodeled with assistance from the Veterans Administration. The town contended that the ruling was illogical because “a person could obtain a Veterans Administration grant of $10,000 for a relatively modest adaptation, and then be fully exempt from property taxes for the rest of his or her life.”
The court said, “We disagree with the town’s characterization of the exemption as being based on ‘veteran status alone.’ … [T]he statute contains several criteria that must be met in order to qualify for a property tax exemption on a specially adapted homestead. These criteria include permanent and total service-connected disability due to double amputation, paraplegia, or blindness, in addition to meeting the other requirements under federal law for receiving VA assistance to acquire the special adaptations that enable the disabled veteran to live in the home. The legislature did not establish that a minimum expenditure be made in acquiring a specially adapted homestead, and we will not add language to the statute that the legislature did not see fit to include.”
The case involved a $73,768 VA grant to remodel the home that Louis and Robin Nordle had built in 2007 to replace a summer camp they had purchased in 1998. They placed the property into a trust in 2015 and, a year later, received the VA grant to widen the doors, raise and level the floors, install access ramps, and remodel the bathroom.
Belmont officials denied their request because the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration had told the town that, in order to be entitled to the exemption, the VA “had to help ‘purchase’ the home not adapt it.”
When the Nordles appealed the decision, the Bureau of Tax and Land Appeals ruled that the trust was entitled to the full property tax exemption because Louis Nordle “obtained, and is now in possession of, a specially adapted homestead … only because of the financial assistance he received from the VA.”
The town moved for reconsideration but the BTLA denied the request, leading to the town’s decision to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court, which ruled in the spring.