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COURT OF APPEALS UPHOLDS REQUIREMENT FOR COUNTIES TO REIMBURSE MUNICIPAL UNSAFE BUILDING AND PROPERTY MAINTENANCE COSTS

Municipal legislative boards occasionally find it necessary, in the public interest, to demolish unsafe buildings or conduct property maintenance on private properties.

The cost of these proceedings, including the demolition or maintenance work, is initially borne by the municipality and then billed to the property owner. If not paid, the amount of the costs is levied on the owner’s property tax bill. If the tax is not paid, then the county pays that amount, along with other unpaid municipal taxes, to the municipality.

The reimbursement of those costs to the municipality is critical to enable municipalities to conduct necessary unsafe building and property maintenance proceedings. This reimbursement process was jeopardized in 2016 when the County of Monroe refused to reimburse such building demolition and property maintenance costs, claiming that the State statute did not require or authorize such reimbursement on the ground that those costs were not considered a ‘tax’ under the statute.

Last month in an important victory for cities, towns and villages, the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, reversing the appellate-level court, unanimously held that Real Property Tax Law §936 requires counties “to credit the maintenance and demolition charges” to the municipality.

Oral argument was held before the Court of Appeals on November 12, 2020, and can be viewed here.

This is not intended to be legal advice.  You should contact an attorney for advice regarding your specific situation.

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J. Benjamin Gailey, Partner of Jacobowitz & Gubits, LLP in Monticello, NY

J. Benjamin Gailey is partner at the firm and practices Municipal Law, Library Law, Environmental Law, 
Constitutional Law, Environmental Compliance and Due Diligence, Condemnation Law, State and Federal Court Litigation and
Zoning, Land Use and Environmental Law.

He can be reached at  845-764-9656 and by email.

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