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Volume 9 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 77

Opinions of Counsel index

Taxes, collection (escrow accounts) (notices of delinquency) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 928, 987:

A tax collecting officer must send a notice of unpaid taxes for each installment of taxes which is unpaid.

Our opinion has been requested relative to the provisions of section 987 of the Real Property Tax Law (RPTL), concerning notices of tax delinquency. Section 987 was added at the same time that Title 3-A of Article 9 of the RPTL was adopted (L.1989, c.440). That law delineates the responsibilities, procedures and potential penalties for mortgage investing institutions (MII) which maintain real property tax escrow accounts for owner-occupied, one- to six-family residences. The law also imposes additional responsibilities on local officials.

Section 987(1) provides:

1. The collecting officer shall, on or after the thirty-first day following the expiration of the period during which taxes may be paid without interest, but no later than the sooner of the eighty-fifth day after such expiration or the fifteenth day prior to the expiration of the warrant for the collection of taxes, mail a notice to each owner of real property upon which taxes remain unpaid on the tax roll to which his or her warrant relates. This notice shall be sent to the mailing address of the owner and a copy of such notice shall be sent to the tax billing address, if different. The expense of mailing such notices shall be an additional penalty of one dollar chargeable against the parcel. Such notice shall at least contain the following and may be attached to or be part of a duplicate copy of the tax bill:

“The taxes on your property have not been paid. If the taxes should have been paid through a real property tax escrow account, please immediately notify the holder of the account that the taxes have not yet been paid.”

In the instant inquiry, it is indicated that the county has acted pursuant to RPTL, section 928, to provide for the payment of taxes in installments. Subdivision (2) of section 987 provides that the provisions relating to notices of delinquency apply to each unpaid installment. That subdivision also provides that with respect to the first installment payment for any fiscal year, the notice must be sent no later than 85 days after the last date on which the first installment was payable without interest, and, for remaining installments, the notice must be sent no later than 120 days after the last date for interest-free payment.

An example may serve to illustrate the manner in which section 987 is to be applied. The interest-free period for payment of county/town taxes runs through January 31 (RPTL, §924), and we will assume the expiration of the warrant has been extended to September, as may be done for towns in the county in question (RPTL, §938). Given these facts, the notice of delinquency with respect to the first installment must be sent no sooner than March 3 and no later than April 26. The notice of delinquency with respect to the second installment must be sent no later than (a) 120 days after that second installment may be paid without interest, or (b) 15 days prior to the expiration of the warrant (which occurs here on September 1), whichever is sooner.

Subdivision (5) of section 987 provides that the provisions of the section apply to all municipal corporations, other than school districts, “notwithstanding any general, special or local law to the contrary....”

There is no required form for the notice of delinquency, although the above-quoted language must be included. We understand that some collectors are using duplicate copies of the tax bill with the required language stamped or printed thereon as their notice, and, in our opinion, this satisfies the statute.

December 7, 1990

Updated: