Two Queens lawmakers introduced legislation that would postpone the New York City tax lien sale by one year following the expiration of the COVID-19 state of emergency order.
State Senator Leroy Comrie and Assemblyman David Weprin said the annual lien sale in which debt on tax-delinquent properties is auctioned to private collectors was scheduled for May 15 but was delayed due to the ongoing pandemic.
As of now, the sale is scheduled to occur on September 4. The owners of properties eligible for the tax lien have until September 3 to pay their debt or enter into a payment agreement with the Department of Finance. Once a lien is sold, the property owner must arrange a payment agreement with the lien servicing company or risk legal seizure of their properties.
Liens are sold to private servicing companies with special operating authorization from the city and currently, these include Tower Capital Management, LLC and MTAG Services, LLC
In Comrie’s southeast Queens district, a residential community that is still recovering from the subprime mortgage crisis, as many as 600 properties are eligible for the 2020 lien sale. In past years, Comrie’s office has worked closely with the Department of Finance to identify and assist property owners ahead of the annual lien sale, but COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges to doing community outreach.
“Homeowners facing the lien sale need ample time to consult with attorneys, enter into payment agreements, and learn about exemption programs ahead of the sale,” Comrie said. “COVID-19 has made this all impossible to do on a scale that we need it to happen. The tax lien sale can’t happen this year, and I’m going to raise hell between now and September 4 to see that it doesn’t happen.”
With thousands of city homeowners impacted by the economic effects of the pandemic, Weprin says holding the lien sale this year would be unconscionable.
“While I appreciate the City of New York’s delay in holding the sale thus far, it is now clear that the lien sale must be canceled this year,” Weprin said. “I am proud to join Senator Leroy Comrie as the Assembly sponsor of state legislation to eliminate the 2020 lien sale in New York City and look forward to raising havoc with the Senator to protect low and moderate-income homeowners and seniors from this threat to homeownership.”
The legislation enjoys the support of several elected officials in southeast Queens.
“Due to the onset of COVID-19, our communities have not received appropriate outreach from the Department of Finance and the tax lien sale should not go forward as planned,” Councilwoman Adrienne Adams said. “We must ensure that financial hardships in the aftermath of the pandemic are not further heightened and I applaud Senator Comrie and Assembly Member Weprin for this thoughtful legislation.”
State Senator James Sanders is “proudly co-sponsoring the bill” so homeowners can protect their properties. Councilman I. Daneek Miller, the co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, also supports the bill.
“Back in March, we called on the city to cancel the lien sale, knowing full well that the financial hardships this global pandemic would cause,” Miller said. “Postponement is not enough, the lien sale must be canceled in its entirety. We’ve known for a long time that it disproportionately impacts communities of color, and it is especially egregious to continue with the sale given the already precarious economic situation thousands of families find themselves in.”