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Vacant Property Registration

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but I thought I should share some info about a St. Louis City Bill (Board Bill 174) that could have a direct affect on City investors. This bill was introduced in July to the Board of Alderman by Alderwoman Triplett and Alderman Kennedy. Here is the summary of the bill as it was presented in July:

An ordinance pertaining to a registration fee for vacant buildings and structures; defining ownership for the purpose of this ordinance; establishing an annual registration fee of fifty dollars ($50) to be charged to the owner of any parcel of residential property improved by a residential structure, or commercial property improved by a structure containing multiple dwelling units, which is vacant and has been vacant for at least 30 days; requiring an authorized agent either maintain an office or live in the City of St. Louis; requiring the owner to secure, post a sign on and maintain the vacant building; requiring the owner to maintain liability insurance; establishing a penalty clause; defining vacant for the purpose of this ordinance deeming registration statements as prima facie proof; initial notification; collected funds; and containing a severability clause.

If you’d like to read the full language of the bill you can read it for yourself here. I have chewed over this proposed legislation quite a bit since I learned of it a few weeks ago, and I can’t decide what to make of it. As a property owner, City resident and someone who works with vacant properties on a daily basis, I understand the frustration with absentee landlords. Some of these people would love ot fix up their properties if they could figure out a way to bring everything together, but more often than not these people are speculators that buy properties and let them rot while they wait for property values to increase.

I get the whole effort of trying to have good contact information for these people. What I don’t get is why they need to create a new law to do it. When a property changes hands in St. Louis, the new owner has to fill out a for with their registered tax address.  If they aren’t living in the newly purchased property it stands to reason that the properties actual address is not the tax address. Search through the tax records in the City, however, and you will find countless properties with the incorrect contact addresses. And its not just properties that have been on the books for a long time. This happens all the time right now. I have even seen buildings purchased by my own clients that don’t get registered correctly. Even when they fill out their correct address on their closing documents.

It seems to me that before the City starts talking about creating new laws and levying new fees, they should implement the rules that are already on the books. I’m not against the law per say, I just don’t think it would take care of the problem. What do you think?

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