Thousands of homeowners were temporarily spared another financial burden after Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a 30-day-long executive order stopping the city’s tax lien sale on Friday.
Every year, the city’s Department of Finance sells the tax lien claims of homeowners who have been unable to pay property or water bills to private debt collectors. The sale was scheduled to take place on May 15. but was postponed until Friday, Sept. 4. due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“It is the responsibility of government to relieve the financial hardships of the people wherever possible, not exacerbate them,” said Attorney General Letitia James in a joint statement with the governor’s office. James recently joined a coalition of activists and over 50 other elected officials in calling for the removal of close 4,700 low-income homes located in the neighborhoods hardest hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Buildings on the sale list are traditionally disproportionately located in communities of color.
“COVID-19 caused enormous disruption in the daily lives of New Yorkers, including their ability to keep a roof over their head,” Governor Cuomo said. “The tax and water lien sale was delayed in May in recognition of this hardship, and given the current economic climate, it makes sense to delay it again so that homeowners aren’t facing further uncertainty. This measure is part and parcel with our ongoing efforts to help New Yorkers weather the ongoing public health emergency.”
Just minutes after the governor issued the executive order, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a contradictory statement delaying the sale until Sept. 25, to grant New Yorkers more time to pay outstanding debts or sign up for payment plans. But the governor’s order prevents any local government from enforcing lien judgments until Oct. 3.
“COVID-19 has hit the pocketbooks of New Yorkers hard, and we’re doing whatever we can to give New Yorkers some relief,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Postponing the lien sale will allow New Yorkers more time to work with the City on their best path forward.”
In the statement, City Hall advises property owners having trouble making property tax payments to take advantage of several DOF programs including exemption programs to lower the total amount of taxes owed, payment plans or a Property Tax and Interest Deferral program. The DOE can also provide a monthly property tax billing service to facilitate budgeting for property owners on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. For more information on these programs visit here.