New York Tax Sale Records Not Covered by Privacy Provision?
It looks like we have found not one, but TWO new ways to attack the New York Tax Sale Records "problem". What's the problem? New York's Freedom of Information Act contains a privacy provision that allowed the counties to withhold records from you if you were using them to do any kind of business.
Here's how they try to stop you from getting New York tax sale records:
This statement is part of New York's Freedom of Information Act:
'An agency may require a person requesting lists of names and addresses to provide a written certification that such person will not use such lists of names and addresses for solicitation or fund-raising purposes and will not sell, give or otherwise make available such lists of names and addresses to any other person for the purpose of allowing that person to use such lists of names and addresses for solicitation or fund-raising purposes.'
As soon as some counties get your request, they send you a scary form that you must sign, stating that you will not use the information for solicitation or fund raising.
Now, I think there could be some debate on whether we're "soliciting" or not - we're offering to buy something (the owner's property), not trying to sell the owner something.
BUT, let's not take that route. The word "solicitation" is open to interpretation and could possibly cover our activities. We don't want to sign an affidavit and possibly get ourselves in trouble later.
How to Get New York Tax Sale Records Safely
There are two ways to get the records in full compliance of the law, as far as I'm concerned. I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. These are simply 2 logical approaches to the situation:
Method 1: Don't request a list of "names and addresses"!
Re-read the statement in the box above. The agency can require you to sign that form if you request a "list of names and addresses". So don't request a list containing any names!
Request property ID, property address, owner's mailing address, taxes owed, and anything else you'd like to know, but clearly state that you do not require a list containing ANY names! Therefore you are not requesting a list of names and addresses, and not subject to the requirement.
Just send postcards to the property address and the owner's mailing address, if different, and use "Resident" for the name. You will get returned mail from vacant properties. You will get some returned mail from owner addresses. You will get calls (especially since you're probably the only one with the New York list!).
Save your returned mail, and get the owner names some other way. Find an information broker online, or even just look up the properties individually online. By now you've weeded them down to only the most interesting. Make sure you're not violating any terms of the county website by doing this.
Method 2: Real estate records are exempt!!!
I don't know if this is a new development in the law, but I just found this recently:
'Unless otherwise provided by this article, disclosure shall not be construed to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy pursuant to paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subdivision:
iv. when a record or group of records relates to the right, title or interest in real property, or relates to the inventory, status or characteristics of real property, in which case disclosure and providing copies of such record or group of records shall not be deemed an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.'
Sounds pretty clear, doesn't it?
Let's settle this issue once and for all! Make a public records request to a New York county for the tax delinquent records you want. If they force you to sign a form, respond and cite both tactics above.
I'm looking for someone to overcome the county's roadblocks using one or both of these techniques.
Update: We have our first winner (see below) - but I'm giving away another copy of my course if you use Suggestion #2 to overcome a rejected request
Be the first for any New York County to send me copies of all paperwork you used to get your request (either omitting names, or providing the real estate exemption above), along with the county's response and successful outcome, and you'll get my $997 course, 'Free and Clear Foreclosures', free! Course Details HERE.
Just email everything to firstname.lastname@example.org
Got any experiences with New York tax sale records and the counties who like to protect them so much?