Schenectady County

Delinquent in Schenectady? Pay up or get out

On Tuesday, the city’s attorney will file for tax foreclosures on more than 100 properties.
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On Tuesday, the city’s attorney will file for tax foreclosures on more than 100 properties.

The process has been nearly a year in the making, as city officials created a list of the city’s most derelict properties and cross-referenced that with the list of delinquent taxpayers.

Then they had to track down the owners — not as easy task, particularly since some simply abandoned their buildings and moved to other states. Others turned out to be dead. Still others bought property as an investment, rented out the units, and kept the money, not using any of it for maintenance or taxes.

There are also a few owner-occupied properties, which will be treated slightly differently during the foreclosure process.

Corporation Counsel John Polster said some owners paid their taxes when he sent them a letter warning them of the foreclosure filing. Others will pay once they get notification that the matter has gone to court, he said.

They will have until Aug. 29 to pay the taxes and stop the foreclosure.

“That’s their second chance,” Polster said.

For owner-occupants, there will be a third chance: after the foreclosure, they will be given a short time to buy back their property by paying all the overdue taxes and the city’s costs, estimated to be $1,000.

They will likely have less than a month to buy back the property.

Owners who don’t live on the property won’t get a third chance. If they don’t pay the taxes when they get the court filing notice, they will lose it.

Polster said offering a buyback requires some extra work — a judge must order all the liens on the deed restored. Liens are wiped out by foreclosure, and he doesn’t want owners to use foreclosure to wipe out debts, fines and other liens.

With foreclosure possibly happening at the end of August, city officials hope to put many properties up for sale this fall.

That could lead to much-needed revenue this year; the city had budgeted to get $400,000 from sales, but the foreclosure process took far longer than anticipated. In January, Mayor Gary McCarthy said it appeared unlikely that the city would be able to sell houses in time to meet that goal.

City officials acknowledged that selling hundreds of buildings in four months is difficult, but they are going to try.

“From a real estate perspective, spring and fall are prime times,” Councilman Carl Erikson said.

Homeowners will get a few weeks for their third-chance buyback, but he said those properties must be put up for sale before the end of September.

“I don’t want to move past the prime selling time in the fall,” Erikson said. “If it goes into September, it might increase our chance of carrying the property through the winter.”

The city would have to winterize every unsold property so that pipes don’t burst. They also won’t get any taxes from unsold properties.

McCarthy added that those who don’t live on their property will not be offered a buyback option.

“Homeowners we have to treat differently. We want to encourage homeownership. The other ones, the absentee landlords, I am really not that sympathetic to. I don’t want to dally around.”

Erikson agreed that homeowners deserve a third chance.

“We’re talking about people who are struggling financially,” he said.

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