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Volume 6 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 12

Opinions of Counsel index

Tax lien (application for conveyance of deed) (time limitation) - Real Property Tax Law, § 1018; Suffolk County Tax Act, § 68:

Neither the Suffolk County Tax Act nor the Real Property Tax Law authorizes a tax lienholder to apply to the county for a conveyance of a deed after the expiration of the time limitations provided in those statutes. Failure to meet this requirement makes the certificate of sale void and prevents any conveyance of a deed.

The subject matter concerns enforcement of delinquent taxes pursuant to section 68 of the Suffolk County Tax Act. A tax lienholder has failed to apply for a conveyance within the time allowed by section 68 and the question is asked whether a right to such conveyance may still be established.

Section 68 of the Suffolk County Tax Act provides that “[i]f the owner of any certificate... does not apply for a conveyance within the period of eight years from date of sale so allowed for bringing such action, the certificate shall become void, and no claim can be maintained under the purchase.” Section 68 was first enacted by chapter 152 of the Laws of 1929. However, as originally enacted, it did not include a period of limitation. The period of limitation was added by chapter 745 of the Laws of 1959.

While we know of no reported cases interpreting section 68 of the Suffolk County Tax Act, several cases have interpreted section 1018 of the Real Property Tax Law which parallels the provisions of the County Act. (Section 1018 differs from section 68 in that it provides for a five-year, rather than an eight-year, limitation within which application for a conveyance must be made.) These cases uniformly hold that application for conveyance of a deed by the holder of the tax sale certificate must be made before the expiration of five years from the date of the sale. Failure to abide by this five-year period makes the certificate of sale void and prevents any conveyance of a deed (see, Chase v. Senter, 41 App. Div.2d 281, 342 N.Y.S.2d 815; Matlioli v. Corradino, 24 Misc.2d 157,199 N.Y.S.2d 905). In the latter case, the court indicated that the title to the property continued in the owner of the fee absolute.

Considering the similarity of the statutory language in both laws, this construction of section 1018 of the Real Property Tax Law appears equally applicable to section 68 of the Suffolk County Tax Act. In fact, section 32 of the county act provides that “[t]he tax law shall apply and govern in all matters. relating 10 taxation in Suffolk County not inconsistent with the provisions of this act.” It was held in Petition of Town of Brookhaven, 78 Misc.2d 499.354 N.Y.S.2d 794 at 804, that:

Absent, then, any authority in the SCTA ... the answer must be sought elsewhere . . .

Although in Application of Gould Realty Co., Inc., 284 N.Y. 540,32 N.E.2d 545, the Court of Appeals held that the tax sale sections of the SCTA were a complete and exclusive system for the collection of taxes by sale in Suffolk County, there is no reason why ... sections of the Real Property Tax Law (“RPTL”) should not apply if not inconsistent with the local act.....

Construing section 68 of the Suffolk County Tax Act as strictly as the courts have interpreted section 1018 of the Real Property Tax Law, we are of the opinion that the tax lienholder has no right under either statute to apply to the county for a conveyance of a deed. However, this does not mean that he may not have a remedy under some other provision of law. For example, he may have a remedy under the doctrine of adverse possession, or some other right not provided by the Real Property Tax Law or the Suffolk County Tax Act (see, e.g. Articles 5 and 15 of the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law; Reiter v. Candon Homes, Inc., 56 Misc.2d 168, 287 N.Y.S.2d 724).

March 31, 1977

Updated: