Friday, March 6, 2009

Helping out the seniors

From the Times Ledger:

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.

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.

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