Monday, February 28, 2011

Absentee Landlord and Vacant Building Management

If there is one thing this wicked winter has thought us it is the importance of our city’s Absentee Landlord registration and our Vacant Building registry. As the inches upon inches of snow have continued to fall coupled with the occasional rain/ice storm many neighbors have been asking, “Who is going to clean that sidewalk?” Often referring to a building that sits vacant or one owned by a known out-of-town owner. A well facilitated registry program is the answer to the question. The data that is required to be submitted by the property owner to the city allows city officials quick access to all pertinent contact information to seek a timely remedy to an issue that may arise.

In 2008, the city adopted a Landlord Registry. This program requires all property owners who live 20 miles or more outside the city limits to register their property with the city. The property owner is required to provide all pertinent contact information for themselves and for their required property manager. The process to register is simple. Either in person or via mail the owner has to complete an application which can be found on the city’s website or at city hall. Ninety days after taking ownership of the property this application needs to be completed and on file with the city. (Note: all properties owned by out-of-town landlords must have been registered within 90 of the passing of the registry in 2008.) The application fee of $150 will be waived if the property owner registers within these 90 days. If the owner does not register, the $150 fee is required plus an additional $75 fee for each 60 day period until the property is registered. Any fees that remain unpaid during a calendar year will be added to the tax levy of the affected property. Should a property remain unregistered the city can being action against the property owner and should they be found in violation, the owner will be subject of a fine up to $500. This registry provides the city with effective means of contacting and seeking remedy to any issue that may occur at a non-owner occupied property. In the past tracking down an owner or the owner’s representative presented city officials with challenges, especially with those who reside well out of the area. Owners are required to register their property every three years.

The city’s vacant building registry has been in place for a number of years now, but recently it has been updated. To be considered vacant a building must: A. be unoccupied and not secured or not boarded in compliance with the standards set forth in the city code; B. be unoccupied and not maintained in compliance with the standards set forth in the city code; C. be posted as "Unfit for Human Habitation" by the City of Troy Bureau of Code Enforcement; D. be illegally occupied; or E. be unoccupied for a period of time over three months. Vacant buildings can pose a serious health and safety issue to their neighborhoods. If they’re not secured and maintained properly they could be a breeding ground for unsavory activity and if they’re not well maintained they could fall victim to continued vandalism and severe dilapidation. Just as the landlord registry, there is a fee schedule. The city’s desire is to have these properties occupied and valuable assets to the community. So, an aggressive fee schedule has been developed to encourage owners to occupy them in a timely manner. The first year registration fee is $250, which along with the registry application and a plan for the property must be submitted to the city within 30 days of the building be declared vacant. Each year thereafter the registration fee increases: 2nd year is $500, 3rd year is $1,000, 4th year is $1,500, 5th year and each succeeding year is $2,000. Note that vacant building fees for buildings of 5,000 square feet or greater shall be doubled.

Why are programs like this important? They compel neglectful property owners to be responsible for their properties. City officials now have the most current information for the property owners and their representatives enabling them to effectively communicate in the event of an emergency or violation. Well maintained and occupied properties improve neighborhoods, increase property values and marketability, and prevent neighborhoods from falling into despair. They help provide all of us with the quality-of-life we desire.

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