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Volume 9 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 105

Opinions of Counsel index

Tax bills (village fines) (procedure) - Village Law, §§ 4-414, 5-518:

If a village orders an owner of property to remove offensive debris from the property and the owner fails to do so, the village may itself remove the debris and impose the cost on the parcel as a special assessment. However, there is no authority to include on a tax bill the amount of a fine imposed by a village court on account of a violation of a local law.

We have been asked whether a village may include on its real property tax bills the amount of an unpaid fine imposed by the village court on account of a violation of a local law relating to junkyards.

Villages have the authority to provide for the removal of unsafe buildings or debris by enacting a local law pursuant to section 4-412 of the “village Law. {*}  Once such a local law is enacted, a village may order the owner of a parcel which includes such unsafe structure or debris to correct the condition. If the owner fails to do so, the village itself may do so, and impose the cost on the parcel as a special assessment (Village Law, §4-414), which becomes a lien on the property. If not paid, the amount may be levied (and, if necessary, enforced) with subsequent village taxes (Village Law, §§5-516, 5-518).

Here, it does not appear that the monetary sum imposed was the amount necessary for removing the offending condition; rather, it was a fine imposed for violation of a local law. Therefore, this is a criminal matter, and Article 420 of the Criminal Procedure Law provides the manner in which fines may be collected. Nothing in Article 420 authorizes the inclusion of an unpaid fine imposed by a village court to be included in a subsequent village tax levy, nor are we aware of any provision of law which would allow this. In the absence of such authorization, we believe that it is impermissible for such a fine to be collected in this manner.

We note that the Court of Appeals has concluded that, where a method of enforcing delinquent sewer rents is prescribed by statute, that method is exclusive and resort may not be had to other methods not so prescribed (Pearl Leather Finishers, Inc. v. Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Sewer Board, 79 N.Y.2d 430, 593 N.E.2d 263, 583 N.Y.S.2d 809 (1992)). We believe that the rationale concerning the exclusive nature of the prescribed methods of enforcing delinquent sewer rents may be extended to the enforcement of other delinquent accounts, such as fines.

September 16, 1992


{*}  This necessity for a local law is to be distinguished from former section 89(7-a) of the Village Law of 1909 (repealed L.1972, c.892) which was self-executing (Jewett v. Luau-Nyall Corp., 31 N.Y.2d 298, 291 N.E.2d 123, 338 N.Y.S.2d 874 (1972)).

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