Officials discuss delinquent property taxes

By Jennifer Woods -

On Monday, the Fayette County Commissioners held a meeting to discuss matters related to the county Land Bank.

Following the meeting, Rod Bryant, the building official for the City of Washington Court House, explained, “When properties fall into an advanced state of disrepair, it is our job as the building department to deem them so.”

If a structure cannot be repaired, it is removed. Once removed, Bryant said, “They now have a property that doesn’t have any value. They typically don’t mow them, and they don’t pay the taxes. The Land Bank’s job is to give clean title: to expunge any liens or deficiencies against the property.”

The end-goal of the process is to transform dilapidated structures into beautiful, useful structures that generate taxes the city can utilize. This is a long process with a great deal of paperwork, yet vital for the health and property values of the county, according to officials.

Daniel Drake, an assistant prosecuting attorney for Fayette County, passed out the prosecutor’s list for 2018. This list was comprised of properties within Fayette County that were delinquent on taxes for a year or longer. There were 240 properties on this list. The value of delinquent taxes for these properties totaled an approximate $1,429,380.

Drake explained that properties delinquent on taxes often sit empty. County prosecutors do their best to foreclose on homes. As the 240 properties on the list showed, there is a sheer number they have to deal with at a given time.

Many properties still have mortgages with the bank, and the banks may stop in the middle of foreclosures to save money. Any person who holds ownership must also be tracked down, regardless of how far they live.

Drake explained further, “The problem exists when there are no buyers.” People either do not show up at the sales or don’t want to buy the properties. He said, “The taxes just sit there. So, a way to dispose of that and get the properties back on the tax rolls, is that if there have been two sheriff sales on the same property, and nobody has bid on the property either time, then the property automatically goes to the state of Ohio.”

According to Fayette County Commissioner Jim Garland, “There’s too much taxes against these bigger ones. Nobody’s gonna buy them, because they would have to pay the taxes if they bought them.” He explained further that some people will purchase properties with lower tax liens, then fix-up or rebuild homes on the land. Garland said, “[Jaret Bishop] puts up nice houses; so he’s ahead of the game. He’s good for the community.”

Jaret Bishop, a developer as well as owner of JL Bishop, attends the Land Bank meetings for information on what may become available in the future. He said, “If it’s something that we want, something that we can work with, we’ll purchase it.” What they purchase, they build homes on for people to rent or buy.

The Fayette County Commissioners can request properties they believe will be good for new homes, to give to surrounding landowners who are paying taxes, to use for different programs like Community Action’s Self-Help Housing: essentially what would be best for the community the property is located in while getting tax revenue back for the city. If accepted, the title would be transferred from the state to the Land Bank. At this point, the taxes owed on the property would be forgiven.

The next Land Bank meeting is planned for March 11, located at 133 S. Main St., Suite 401 in Washington Court House. The public is welcome to attend.

Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @kenanipel

By Jennifer Woods