City pushes tax help for elder homeowners

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More than 6,000 Queens properties are currently at−risk of having their tax liens sold to private collectors, but city Finance Department employee Lee Fiorino is working to ensure that number decreases.

Fiorino addressed Queens Borough Cabinet members at their Tuesday morning meeting and urged community board managers to reach out to seniors and disabled residents who could qualify for the Senior Citizen Homeowner Exemption or Disabled Homeowner Exemption programs.

Should any resident qualify for one of the two programs, their properties’ liens will not be sold.

“Many of the people who qualify for this don’t know it,” Fiorino said. “We’re talking about 80−year−old people with an income of $700 a month who own their own home. We want to get as many people as we can removed from the [liens] list.”

The sale of a property’s tax lien, imposed by law to secure unpaid taxes, would be done by the city, which would sell the debt, not the property, to a private collector. The property owner would then pay back the debt, along with additional fees and interest, to the private collector. If the debt is not paid, the private collector can start foreclosure proceedings.

Owners who have not paid property taxes for three consecutive years or owe $1,000 or more for water or sewer bills are placed on the liens sale list. The $1,000 debt for water or sewer must be at least one year old in order for the property to have its liens sold.

Residents have until May 1 to begin to pay down their debt, but Fiorino said property owners should contact the Finance Department by mid−April at the latest to set up a payment plan.

“We have to work together to identify these people and figure out how they can stay in their homes,” Fiorino said at the meeting, attended by Borough President Helen Marshall and community board district managers.

There were 24,111 properties at risk for having their liens sold as of one month ago, according to the Finance Department. Queens has the second−highest number of at−risk properties in the city, placing behind Brooklyn with 6,172 as of about one month ago. The borough has less than 4,200 Class 1 properties, which are one−, two− or three−family homes.

Within Queens, Community Board 12 had the most at−risk Class 1 properties, totaling around 1,027 as of a month ago. CB 12 covers Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans, Springfield Gardens and South Jamaica.

Community Board 13 had the second−highest number, with 579 Class 1 properties. CB 13 includes Queens Village, Glen Oaks, Bellerose, Cambria Heights, Laurelton and Floral Park.

Community Board 6 has at 51 units the fewest number of at−risk Class 1 properties. CB 6 covers Forest Hills and Rego Park.

For more information about the liens sale, contact the Finance Department at 212−232−1776.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Marshall recognized the borough’s nine female community board district managers in honor of Women’s History Month.

“Congratula­tions to all of you ladies,” Marshall told the managers. “You have given so much and are so very special.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

Posted 6:32 pm, October 10, 2011
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