Wednesday, December 18, 2013

DeKalb County launches vacant property registration ordinance

Daniel Beauregard at The Champion reports that DeKalb County has adopted a vacant property registry ordinance, effective March 2014.
"Commissioners and officials will hold several town hall meetings to educate residents and neighborhood associations about the registry." Read the whole article at The Champion.
Going forward, owners must register vacant properties with the County or face a $1,000 fine. This will make it easier for County officials to follow up if a property is not being maintained and ensure maintenance costs rest with the property owner. A local agent can be designated by the owner as the contact person for such communications.

UPDATE 6/5/2014: Link to DeKalb Vacant Property Registry page, stating properties must be registered starting June 1, 2014.

Not mentioned in the article but also relevant: the registry offers another mechanism to help the County cross-check and rectify inaccurate homestead exemptions that deplete the County's budget. Per the County's website, "You cannot file for homestead exemption on rental property, vacant land, or on more than one property." Commercial properties are also excluded. The Basic Homestead Exemption (H-1) allows DeKalb homeowners to
"...receive an assessment exemption of $12,500 for School and $10,000 for County levies (except bonds) and $2,000 for State tax. All homeowners are eligible if they own and occupy the home on  January 1 of the year of their application. It grants the freeze for the county assessments. There are no age or income requirements."
The County already has a foreclosure registry. Why create yet another registry? GA Tech has produced a report that reviews the history of vacant property registry ordinances (VPROs)--under 100 existed in the country in 2007; more than 550 were in place by 2012--and explains the hows and whys of these registries:
"The proximate objectives of VPROs typically include providing better data on the extent and nature of vacant and foreclosed properties, having detailed and reliable contact in formation for property owners and managers, and reducing the harms and costs such properties pose to neighborhoods and local governments. Ultimately, proponents of VPROs may hope to discourage irresponsible investment by internalizing some of the social costs of vacant properties and holding owners accountable for not maintaining properties in a responsible manner."  from New Data on Local Vacant Property Registration Ordinances. Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research, Vol. 12, NO. 2, 2013, p. 259-266.
Georgia VPROs were defined by HB 110, which was signed into law in 2012.