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Vacant property registration up for debate in legislature

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A long-awaited hope of county officials requiring owners of vacant property to register may take longer, since the local county delegation can't even agree on a plan.

Officials made a pitch to legislators Monday for help supporting bills adding a technology fee to police citations, stiffening penalties for pimping and prostitution and creating a more stringent law to prevent metal thefts.

But the most discussion came from a proposal commissioners have discussed for years because of issues contacting people who have vacant property, leaving behind homes or shopping centers with broken glass and knee-high grass.

During Monday's annual legislative briefing, officials told lawmakers that they actually oppose the most recent version of a law, proposed by Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven.

Buford Republican Sen. Renee Unterman filibustered the bill in the final moments of the 2011 session because of an exception that would have allowed property owners to put their property up for sale to refrain from registering, leaving the county without a way to contact owners about problem properties to have them clean up messes.

Officials are still hoping for a solution where properties will be maintained, even though there is no requirement to file a deed in a timely manner.

Unterman said she has experienced the problem in her own neighborhood, where officials searched for six months to find the owner of the house next door. "I ended up cutting the grass for four months," she said.

But Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, said he believes owners of rental properties like himself should not be forced to register when the county already knows who owns the property.

"I think it still needs work," he said. "I'm very much sensitive to anything that is attacking my private property rights."

Officials said the property would only be considered vacant if there are all utilities are canceled. Otherwise, bills would enable the county to contact the property owner.

But Harrell said owners of rental property often have homes that are vacant for a time.

"I think recording the deed is the solution," he said, pushing for a solution that would force new owners to file deed records within a certain timeframe, such as the current requirement for cars within 30 days.

After a few fireworks, legislators asked to move forward.

"We'll deal with the merits (of the proposal) downtown," Rep. Brian Thomas, D-Lilburn, said.

Commissioners also requested some changes to population-based laws, which would have given Gwinnett a higher fee on ad valorem late payments and lower revenues on intangible taxes, since the county population has surpassed 800,000, according to the 2010 Census.

But Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, pointed out that laws creating different regulations for counties of a certain population were found to be unconstitutional.

While officials said they would be fine with ditching the population requirement, they said that if it stays, they would like the threshold to increase to keep county rules from changing.

Comments

R 2 years, 9 months ago

But Brett, if you and other rental owners’ REGISTERED their property, Gwinnett would have NO NEED to have pushed the expensive TRASH plan that we citizens’ are trying desperately to get out of. As to the county knowing who owns what, please refer to the records of Gwinnett Superior court cases relating to the original trash lawsuit filed in or about 2007. The testimony obtained by former Gov Barnes was a real eye opener due to the sheer amount of INCORRECT owner records that Gwinnett provided the original firms to set up the plan. Seems one could use the LACK of a Homestead Exemption at the lot level - but we sure need to change something… QUICK.

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kevin 2 years, 9 months ago

The Gwinnett BOC cannot even tell what properties have been converted to rental, since many people can't sell them. Gwinnett is losing tax money because people still claim a homestead exemption on their property even though they are not living there anymore. Besides this loss, the county is losing the extra assessed value on rental property. Why isn't the BOC checking into this easy increase in tax collections? Why is the BOC not even addressing this issue? I guess it is so much easier to raise our taxes than to collect what the law allows them to collect. Someone must be paying the tax bills so trace that. If they do not respond, I am sure there is a law that allows the county to sell the property at auction. Something stinks with the Gwinnett BOC!

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kevin 2 years, 9 months ago

But Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, said he believes owners of rental properties like himself should not be forced to register when the county already knows who owns the property.

"I think it still needs work," he said. "I'm very much sensitive to anything that is attacking my private property rights." What rights? Don't you have a right to keep your trashy rental properties clean? Isn't there building codes? What about EPA violations? Why isn't the BOC going after these people and selling their properties at auction if they refuse to clean up there mess or pay taxes? Apparently the county doesn't know who owns the property and/or where they live.

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