Comment of the Day: Prying Dilapidated Properties from Shy Owners

COMMENT OF THE DAY: PRYING DILAPIDATED PROPERTIES FROM SHY OWNERS Notices“I’ve spent some time in my career tracking down the sort of person that doesn’t like paying bills, receiving official notices or summonses, or anything at all like that. And yeah, it’s usually some individual or a tight family, often living out-of-state. A big corporation could never pull it off so easily. Even if the City levies fines against the owner and eventually forecloses the property and sells it at a constables’ auction, the title is still marred because the previous owner might come back to challenge the sale over issues of notice. That doesn’t happen terribly often, but it does happen and it’s in the back of any would-be bidder’s mind at the auction. Of course, that means that the risk and the back taxes are already priced into a bid, that bids are often abysmally low, and that there’s not terribly much incentive for the City to throw good money after bad. It doesn’t mean that they won’t or shouldn’t. But I’ll bet that if they could recover more of what they put into it, that you’d see the City getting a lot more aggressive, right quick.” [TheNiche, commenting on A Tax Break for Replacing ‘Blight’; The Secret Bar Above Clutch City Squire] Illustration: Lulu

4 Comment

  • I can relate. I have been trying to buy a vacant tear-down on my street for over a year now. The absentee family that owns it first tried to sell it on the open market for $170k as a “single family home” despite the fact that the roof of the house has caved in and the garage has completely collapsed into the alley. I offered $100k last year, which they flatly refused. One year later, they came back asking if I am still interested. I offered $90k this time, which they laughed at and said now they will not take less than $100. I checked the tax rolls, and they are already paying penalties for the current tax year, and have paid penalties each of the past 5 years for late payment. Now two months have gone by and not a peep from them in response to my offer.

    WTF is wrong with these people (or should I say with their realtors)?

  • @Superdave: it sounds like a total douche move, and I guess it is, but if the property really is blighted, you can use the City to coerce them to sell. Keep reporting the property to 311. Code violations are largely complaint based in Houston. so if people make a stink, the inspectors will be out there issuing red tags. Are there crimes occurring on the property? Report them to HPD and the Harris County DA. Graffiti? Report it. Get neighbors in on the complaints, too – the more the better. Keep at it. Eventually it’ll be such a pain in the ass for the owners to keep the property that they’ll be eager to sell.
    Just be forewarned, it can be a long process. We were at it for over half a decade with a slum lord who owned most of a crimeridden, gang-infested, horrifically blighted condo complex. It wasn’t until someone found evidence of possible fraud on the condo HOA’s books – and he was looking at possible jail time – that he gave it up.
    I know people will react angrily to what I’m saying here. It’s a really horrible thing to do – I admit that. But Texas Law doesn’t give us many other alternatives. And when it’s real blight – dragging down whole neighborhoods, costing the City tons of money and ruining our quality of life – most neighbors would argue that it’s worth it.

  • Just to note: I’m not talking about eminent domain. Nobody’s forcing anyone to sell. At any time the previous owners can make the necessary repairs themselves to p an end to the red tags and all of that. But the reality with most slum lords is that they’re unable or unwilling to make the repairs. They just need a nudge to come to the table and accept a reasonable offer.

  • I don’t think “slumlord” is the right word for someone that owns a vacant falling down blighted building. “Slumlord” is normally the derogatory name given to someone renting housing to people that others find to be of less quality than what should be offered.
    I’m not defending slumlords but there is no doubt (sadly perhaps) a market for cheap crappy unmaintained housing. Always will be.