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Volume 2 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 88

Opinions of Counsel index

Separate assessment (owner’s responsibility for payment of taxes) - New York City Administrative Code, Chapter 17, Title D:

After its division, an assessor may separately assess portions of a previously single lot if such separate assessments are practical and logical. However, there is no requirement that an assessing unit make such separate assessment upon the property owner’s request. It is the owner’s responsibility to see that property taxes are paid.

Our opinion has been requested by a property owner in New York City. He presents a rather detailed narrative wherein he states that he purchased an eighty foot lot in the Borough of Richmond in 1951. In 1962 he determined to divide the parcel for purposes of a building lot, and he so notified the Borough of Richmond and his mortgagee. Basically, he states that he believed that his mortgagee was to remain responsible for the payment of the taxes on the original eighty foot parcel. However, despite his expectations, the Borough apparently assessed the original parcel as two lots, and the bank paid the taxes only on the one-half of the original parcel which it agreed to maintain as collateral.

Apparently, the taxes levied against the newly divided forty foot lot were not paid, and subsequently the City of New York took title by action in rem on February 17, 1969. Title to the property was sold by the City at public auction on March 27, 1972. The property owner questions these transactions, and requests our opinion as to their validity.

First, the Borough (i.e., the City) acted within its authority in assessing the original parcel as two separate lots. The assessor may separately assess portions of a previously single lot if such separate assessments are practical and logical. By the same token, there is no requirement that an assessing unit make a separate assessment such as was done by the City upon the taxpayer’s request. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the owner of the lots to be certain that the annual taxes are paid.

If real property taxes become delinquent, then the appropriate municipal corporation must institute the procedures necessary for the enforcement and collection of delinquent taxes. This apparently was done by the City of New York in this case pursuant to the procedure of foreclosure by action in rem (New York City Administrative Code, Chapter 17, Title D). In order to clear the title to real property sold by the City after an in rem foreclosure proceeding, the property owner must negotiate with the person or entity who purchased the title from the City.

If the property owner believes he had an understanding with the bank and if he believes that the bank failed to honor an obligation to pay the taxes levied against both parcels, then he may seek to hold the bank responsible by means of a law suit. He should, of course, retain an attorney to investigate these circumstances.

Finally, he states that he was employed by the U.S. Army. By this, we presume that he means that he was a civilian employee. However, in the event that he was on active duty as a member of the U.S. Army, section 314 of the Military Law provides certain protections for servicemen who are real property owners.

December 6, 1972

NOTE:  Citations to law prior to L.1985, c.907.

Updated: