“Having a lien sold on their property and/or home during a global pandemic is reckless and would only further the economic strain of thousands of families throughout our city including seniors and those most susceptible to the COVID-19 virus,” Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato (l.) said.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Several elected officials praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo for issuing Friday an executive order barring any tax and water lien sales by local governments.
According to the City, a lien sale is administered by the Department of Finance, which sells overdue property taxes, water and sewer charges, and other property charges to a non-profit trust. The agency sends out four warning notices to property owners starting three months prior to the sale, alerting them that the property is at risk of being on the lien sale list. More than 80 percent of owners pay the full amount owed, enter into payment plans, or obtain an exemption that removes them from the at-risk pool. DOF also advertises at risk properties and conducts extensive outreach to property owners at risk of having their liens sold, often partnering with community groups and elected officials to reach as many property owners as possible.
The sale was originally scheduled to occur in May 2020, but it was previously postponed until Friday, Sept. 4, as the City focused its efforts on the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of New Yorkers have been pushed into financial disarray and uncertainty due to job and income losses, leaving many unsure of how they will continue to provide for their families or meet their overall housing expenses,” said Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach). “Having a lien sold on their property and/or home during a global pandemic is reckless and would only further the economic strain of thousands of families throughout our city including seniors and those most susceptible to the COVID-19 virus.”
Additionally on Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha announced today the postponement of the annual tax lien sale until Sept. 25 to give New Yorkers additional time to pay debt or enter into payment plans.
“It was simply inhumane and unjust to proceed with the 2020 New York City tax lien sale today,” Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee said on Friday. “Thanks to intervention by Attorney General James as well as Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order today, thousands of families and homeowners—many of whom are here in Queens—are granted precious reprieve and will be able to breathe a little easier during this ongoing state of emergency. Without it, the City’s untimely lien sale would have displaced families, destabilized communities and disrupted generational wealth build.”
In a recent letter to de Blasio, Lee noted her support State Senate Bill S8921, introduced by Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and supported by City Council Resolution 1387-2020 introduced by Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica), which would postpone the lien sale until one year after the currently active COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted.
De Blasio also pointed out that property owners who are facing hardships making their property tax payments can take advantage of several existing DOF programs. These include exemption programs to lower the amount of taxes owed, standard payment plans, or a new Property Tax and Interest Deferral program, for those who qualify. DOF also provides a monthly property tax billing service to facilitate budgeting for property owners billed on a quarterly or semi-annual basis.