The conferring of how to deal with vacant properties in Frederick County and city has not discussed making holding onto these properties very unprofitable for the owners. The county/city can enact new taxes on these properties deemed vacant by their code enforcement divisions. Washington, D.C., has had this tax for several years and it is working. The vacant building is taxed at $5 per $100 of assessed value, due every six months. A chronically vacant building is taxed at $10 per $100 of assessed value every six months. The relief is for very few reasons: listed for sale — six-month reprieve; substantial permits for repairs are applied for and the work is ongoing to enable occupancy for its zoning — one year; and the new owner has one year to have the building occupied or the property goes back to the original status of vacant or chronically vacant. After the exceptions have timed out, the owners will be taxed at the vacant rates originally set in place. The only thing left will be for the political jurisdiction to define vacant and chronically vacant. Vacant means there is no permanent owner or tenant occupying the building as a permanent address.
The tax records reflect the ownership mailing address. Tenant utility bills would reflect full-time occupancy. Chronically vacant is vacant for two consecutive years or the building is in disrepair to the point of being a hazard to surrounding property, e.g., a leaking roof, overgrown vegetation, drainage problem, boarded-up or broken windows, squatters in residence, and any other conditions that might be appropriate. The owners must pay the tax before appealing the classification.
The high tax rate takes away the profit in just holding onto the building and allowing inflation to and the depreciation allowed in the income tax code to provide an overall profit. Yes, it takes some effort on the government’s part to maintain and enforce the vacant classifications. The results are overall what the citizens want: occupied, maintained buildings in their neighborhood. I worked for the Real Property Tax Assessment Office for the District of Columbia and know the value of such legislation in helping turn vacant to occupied buildings.
Gregory J. Glover