Late Breaking: Cuomo Halts Tax Lien Sale as De Blasio Pushes Forward

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James announced Friday a state executive order postponing New York City’s 2020 Tax Lien Sale indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The controversial tax lien sale was originally scheduled for May but then postponed to Friday, Sept. 4 because of the pandemic. It is unclear from the Friday executive order when exactly the tax lien sale will take place as of press time.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Mayor Bill de Blasio

But Mayor Bill de Blasio, who insisted Thursday that the tax lien sale would move forward today said it will now go forward on Sept. 25 – which doesn’t match Cuomo’s executive order.

“COVID-19 caused enormous disruption in the daily lives of New Yorkers, including their ability to keep a roof over their head,” Cuomo said in a press release. “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.”

The lien sale is administered by the NYC 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. However, many Black and Brown lawmakers are critical of the sale, saying it disproportionately affects their community at a time they are hardest hit by COVIID 19.

City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr

“Housing insecurity in these already difficult times would add another daunting crisis to the mix. That’s why the executive order announced by Governor Cuomo and Attorney General James is so important – stopping the tax lien sale from going forward will grant thousands of households peace of mind,” said City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr. (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights).

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 suspension, according to the executive order, aims to give the city more time to conduct outreach to homeowners so they can pay their unpaid water, sewer or property tax bill or enter a payment plan with the city.

The tax lien sale would put an additional financial burden on homeowners, especially those in communities of color, who are already suffering from the economic impacts of coronavirus pandemic, said James.

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