Amid New York City’s Rampant Deed Theft, One Victim Wins

Residential units in New York City

Brooklyn property values are going up. And there are plenty of opportunists looking to steal deeds. In the Bedford-Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn in New York City, Dairus Griffiths just triumphed over those opportunists.

In the past decade, Brooklyn has lost many of its Black and Hispanic residents, as gentrification reshapes the district. Serial fraudsters and their limited liability companies aren’t making life any easier for longtime residents. They scour public records for the most vulnerable and indebted homeowners.

Deed cheats use the shell company structure to blur the identities of holders. The manipulators lie to their targets; they forge deeds; and they move houses from one LLC to the next. Identifying and charging these manipulators becomes very hard to do.

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Start Spreading the News: Blockchain Deed Recording Comes to New York City

New York City’s Department of Finance is trying out blockchain. Can the technology make recording and keeping deeds a better process? The test run, handled by Medici Land Governance (MLG), will find out whether the method will work in a massive city, the company stated in August 2021. MLG is owned by Overstock.com — an early adopter of blockchain in the retail sphere. Its blockchain recording system is proven to be tamper-resistant and easily searched.

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The Sweet New York Condo Tax Deal

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How Long Must This Show Go On?

Homes in New York can have high property tax assessments. By default, home values are assessed at market prices. In contrast, homes classified as condos receive deep discounts when they’re assessed. The result? Some people pay a lot more to cover county, township and school taxes than other people pay — even if they live in homes of similar value.

A free-standing house can be called a condo if the builder has that goal in mind, and many do. New York builders can sell homes for higher prices if they advertise a sweet deal on property taxes. Some of the undertaxed condos are mansions, filled with luxury features, worth a million dollars or more. Why should their buyers pay less in local taxes?  

Builders insist that their condos are rightly entitled to tax breaks. Many condo owners are downsizers, they say — seniors and others who pay high association assessments and fees.

But that’s irrelevant to property taxation, which is meant to maintain the infrastructure of the surrounding township, to provide emergency services, libraries and schools. All property owners support strong school districts; and that, in turn, upholds their property values.

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