Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A total of 51 of 56 properties were sold April 7 at the Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) tax sale, the largest tax sale ever organized by the region.
That brought in $144,917 to cover outstanding taxes owed to the municipality, leaving a surplus of $641,965.
"I was quite astounded to think that there was that much money in sales in one day. That is a lot," commented RQM Mayor Darlene Norman.
Many of those properties up for auction were in the Labelle and Easter Berlin areas of Queens, with the largest piece of property in the Port Joli area.
"That went to Nature Conservancy, so that is good to know because they have a Port Joli Uplands project that they have been working on for almost a decade," said Norman. "They were able to gather more land and grow their upland project."
Land that was not sold will be put to tender in late summer.
The surplus funds are put into a tax sale surplus fund where it sits for 20 years. If a rightful heir a sold property comes forward, he or she can apply to the courts for any surplus made on the property.
The Municipal Government Act states that municipalities can put properties up for sale if taxes are in arrears for the preceding three fiscal years. Council may also defer tax sale proceedings for a property for up to two years, while municipalities also can use their discretion in a variety of circumstances as to whether they auction a particular property or not.
According to Norman, there's been "a lot of outstanding accounts just sitting around for 10, 12 or even 15 years."
Staff work with property owners over a period of years to get their taxes owed up to date. When this is not possible staff take a certain number to tax sale based on timing and availability of staff.
The mayor advised property owners to make sure their taxes get paid. Owners of properties where taxes are outstanding are given a minimum of 60 days notice prior to the auctioning of their property. They can pay their accumulated taxes off within that time period, however.
"People need to understand that paying their taxes is important. Interest accrues on their outstanding accounts, and after two-and-a-half years you could have your property go to the tax sale," she said.
She suggested the municipality is "very accommodating" with payment plans for those who struggle to pay their taxes in one go. "You just need to make arrangements with our finance department and show that you are making an effort to get your taxes paid."
Due to COVID-19 regulations, the auction was held at the former call centre located on Harley Umphrey Drive, instead of the RQM offices. The 185 registered bidders were required to come at six different times in line with public health protocols.
Another tax sale is in the works for early fall. In a non-pandemic year, the municipality holds two or three auctions per year.