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Transfer of Title in Tax Foreclosure Effective on Date of Court Order: NDNY Bankruptcy Case: Onteora Associates

Following Western District of New York precedent, a bankruptcy judge in the Northern District of New York concluded that, in a New York tax foreclosure, title to real estate does not transfer from the property owner to the taxing authority (here, a village) until the entry of a court order approving the transfer. In this unusual case, it was the debtor, not the village, arguing that the transfer took place earlier, when the redemption period ran. Onteora Associates v. Village of Fleismann, Northern District of New York Chapter 11 #09-63106; Adversary Proceeding #09-80076 (Judge Davis; decision August 11, 2011; on appeal). The property in question in the Onteora case is a movie theater, two stores and an apartment, valued on the bankruptcy schedules at $331,717, and subject to $31,820 in property taxes and a mortgage of $62,400. There would appear to be substantial equity in the property. The village filed a tax foreclosure petition December 11, 2008. Under New York tax foreclosure law, a property owner has a limited time period - three months - to redeem the property by paying off the back taxes. In this case, the redemption deadline was May 5, 2009. The taxes were not paid by then, and the village filed for a default judgment transferring title on September 25, 2009. The property owner and the mortgage bank both opposed the application; the court disallowed the debtor's objection, but agreed with the bank and, on December 14, 2009, denied entry of a default judgment transferring title.

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