TAX FORFEITED PROPERTIES

When Janice Rettman was the Ward 5 City Councilmember, she developed city policies that made it possible to take corrective action on nuisance properties. These policies became a strong tool for police and city code staff to combat criminal activity, enforce health and safety standards, and take action on those who allowed their property to fall into disrepair. These ordinances required property owners and absentee landlords to "clean up their act" or in some scenarios just get out of the property ownership business and allow new owners the opportunity to rejuvenate the land and return it to the tax rolls. Along with actions by Housing Court, many properties have been rehabbed.

Shortly after being elected to the County Board, Janice Rettman discovered that Nuisance property owners were getting their property back cheaply and in an improved condition:

"Imagine my surprise when I was elected to the county board and found out that Nuisance Property owners were able to buy back their forfeited property for the cost of back taxes! Property that sometimes was improved at the counties expense and reduced in tax value. I think a lot of hard working, tax paying citizens would like a deal like that: improved property and a tax reduction."

To rectify this situation, Janice worked with the Property Division in developing the TAX FORFEITED LANDS REPURCHASE POLICY. The Repurchase Policy was summarized in a letter sent to the city managers and county officials in August, requesting comments:

"I encourage you … to provide us feedback, and to document those properties where police calls, code or health violations have occurred. In the event the property becomes tax forfeited, and the prior owner wishes to repurchase the property, a representative … will contact your offices for information …. The documentation you provide…will be used by the County Board in deciding whether or not to grant or deny the repurchase …." "…This policy will afford us an opportunity to work together to ensure that properties that have been forfeited, …are used in such a manner as to promote the best use of land and therefore promote the best public interest."

On August 19th the policy was presented by Commissioner Rettman and adopted. Through Janice’s efforts at the city and the county level, there is now a repurchase policy that is not only fair to property owners, but also "promote[s] the best public interest."

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