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Behind on Property Taxes? How to Remove Your Property from the 2021 NYC Tax Lien Sale

by Sofia Colosimo December 2, 2021

Sofia Colosimo is a project coordinator for the Homeowner Stability and LGBT Advocacy Projects.

After over a year of postponements due to COVID, the New York City Tax Lien Sale is scheduled for December 17, 2021. The lien sale places homeowners with unpaid property tax debt at risk of foreclosure by selling property tax liens to a third-party collection agency. The agency can then charge additional fees and implement high interest rates up to 18%, causing previously reasonable bills to escalate into insurmountable debt. Paying down the debt once a tax lien is sold can become overwhelming for homeowners already facing financial hardship and can lead to a tax lien foreclosure if not addressed.

If you are a homeowner who has owed at least $5,000 in property taxes for the last three years, your property may be on the Tax Lien Sale list. Concerned property owners can verify on the NYC Department of Finance Tax Lien Sale website if their home is included. Additionally, New York City is required to send four notices by mail to each property on the list. If your property is listed, it is important to take action by December 16, 2021 to ensure the lien is not sold.

To remove your property from the tax lien sale list, you must take one of the following actions by December 16, 2021:

(1) Submit a COVID-19 hardship declaration – Property owners experiencing financial hardships due to the pandemic preventing them from paying their full tax bill may be eligible to have their property excluded from the lien sale by submitting a hardship declaration. Eligible homeowners can submit a COVID-19 hardship declaration online or download and mail the application form. Paper applications should be mailed to: NYC Department of Finance, 59 Maiden Lane – Tax Lien Unit, 28th Floor, New York, NY, 10038.

To be eligible for a hardship exclusion, homeowners must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be an individual (not a corporation or other business entity).
  • You must own no more than 10 residential dwelling units, including your primary residence.
  • Your property must not be vacant or abandoned.
  • The units that are not your primary residence must be occupied by a tenant or available for rent.
  • You must have experienced a COVID-19-related hardship as listed below:
    • Significant loss of household income.
    • Increase in out-of-pocket expenses due to illness or related to the performance of essential work during the pandemic.
    • Reduced income or increased out-of-pocket expenses due to the need to care for a child or an elderly, disabled, or sick family member.
    • Moving expenses or difficulty in relocating to another residence during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Other circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic that have: negatively affected your ability to obtain meaningful employment or earn income; significantly reduced your household income; or significantly increased your expenses.
    • The inability of one or more of your tenants to pay their rent in full since March 1, 2020.

(2) Make a payment in full – Homeowners who have the means to pay the entirety of their outstanding property tax bill can do so online, in person at a Department of Finance Business Center, or by mail to: NYC Department of Finance, P.O. Box 680, Newark, NJ 07101-0680.

Note: Do not send Property Tax payments in cash by mail. Make checks payable to “NYC Department of Finance”. For more information, visit the Department of Finance website.

(3) Enter into a payment agreement – Complete an application for a standard payment agreement or PT AID payment agreement.

(4) Submit an emergency repair certification – You may be eligible for exclusion from the lien sale if you owe emergency repair charges only. The property must be a tax class one property that is the primary residence of its owner. If you think you may be eligible, submit an emergency repair certification.

(5) Apply for a property tax exemption – Certain property tax exemptions or credits, including the Senior Citizen Homeowners’ Exemption (SCHE), Disabled Homeowners’ Exemption (DHE), and certain veterans exemptions, will remove your property from the tax lien sale at-risk pool. To learn more about NYC property tax exemptions and how to apply, read our article on Property Tax Benefits for NYC Homeowners.

If you have received a notice that your property is on the NYC Tax Lien Sale list and are seeking assistance to complete the Tax Lien Sale Hardship Declaration or apply for a property tax exemption, please call the City Bar Justice Center’s Homeowner Stability Project helpline at 212-382-6766 or email HSP@nycbar.org.

This communication is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. Because all legal problems involve their own specific set of facts, this informational resource is not and should not be used as a substitute for independent legal advice. This informational resource also is not intended to create, and its receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Please contact competent, independent legal counsel for an assessment of your particular legal concerns, or contact our Legal Hotline (212.626.7383 or https://www.citybarjusticecenter.org/legal-hotline/) to determine whether you qualify for assistance from the City Bar Justice Center.

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