If you have unpaid property taxes, water or sewer charges, chances are you are one of the 17,000 New Yorkers that are on a city list to have your tax lien sold, unless you come up with the money in full, arrange a payment plan or apply for an exemption to pay a reduced rate by May 17.
A lien is a legal claim against a property for outstanding debt and any interest that has accrued on it. A list of these properties is available on the city Department of Finance website as well as information on how to apply for an exemption. Seniors, the disabled, active military members and veterans are among those who qualify.
“There have been too many cases that I’ve seen where people didn’t even know that they had back charges due on their water bills or their property tax, especially the water bills,” Comptroller John Liu said at a Community Board 13 meeting on Monday in Bellerose. “There are a lot of people being billed retroactively by the DEP, and people didn’t know that they owed this money, and there were some mistakes made by the city in making those calculations.”
Investors are given the opportunity at auction to pay the delinquent property taxes for the party that owes the debt and thus they become the lien holder. That means the investor has the legal right to foreclose on the property under certain conditions and that the parcel cannot be sold, or refinanced, until the lien is paid.
“It’s no fun to get a tax lien on your home sold, because that means that debt goes to a collection agency, and they do all sorts of things and it could lead, in the worst cases, to loss of home or foreclosure,” Liu said. “And that is a dirty word that we do not want to hear again in this part of Queens.”
Over 1,100 properties on the tax lien list, are in the three councilmanic districts that cover CB 13 — Councilmen James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton), Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and David Weprin (D-Little Neck), according to District Manager, Larry McClean.
When the 90-day lien sale notice is published, homeowners often receive unsolicited loan offers, so they must be particularly careful, because while some of these come from reputable banks, others are from shady lenders looking to take advantage of people in a desperate situation, according to the DOF. For further assistance, residents can call the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development tax lien sale hotline at (212) 863-5300.
“Obviously everyone has to pay their fair share of taxes. To the extent that people are not paying their fair share, they need to pay up,” Liu said. “But there are some cases where people don’t even know about these outstanding charges, and we wouldn’t want a lien to be placed on a home, let alone get sold.”