SW La. Bar Association members give take on new property tax laws
The Southwest Louisiana Title Examiners Roundtable, a monthly meeting of the SW La. Bar Association, met Tuesday to discuss the recent passage and local effects of HB466.
The bill, spearheaded by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, creates a uniform, statewide process for protecting the validity of tax sales when reasonable and intentional steps are taken to notify required parties and will also aid communities in need of investment and restoration.
Calcasieu Parish has an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 of these properties, not on the tax rolls generating funds and often in blighted conditions. These properties are often located in areas in great need of revitalization, but are left untouched due to the inability to locate the appropriate tax debtor to complete legal process for a sale.
Adam Knapp, BRAC president and CEO, said the bill helps both the economy but also quality of life for residents living in particular areas.
“Concentrations of crime and concentrations of blight overlap with one another in a significant way,” he said. “We see that dealing with one is critical with dealing with the other.”
According to the 14th Amendment, titles for property sales related to unpaid taxes can only be acquired after sufficient notice of the sale is directed to all interested parties, a feat that is often difficult to pull off and results in “title issues” that prevent a sale, Mark Judson, SWLA Law Center executive director, explained.
Insufficient notice could result in the a tax sale under the wrong name, a “fatal flaw” in the sales process that cannot be easily resolved, said Amanda Spain Wells, speaker and real estate attorney with Baton Rouge-based firm Baker Donelson.
These properties are often located in areas in great need of revitalization, but are left untouched due to the inability to locate the appropriate tax debtor to complete legal process for a sale.
For properties that enter tax sale or adjudicated status after Aug. 1, 2019, HB466 creates a more streamlined method for providing sufficient notice and potentially getting forsaken properties back on tax rolls.
The new process includes sending a certified letter to all related parties and any three of the following actions: Computer search of the Clerk of Court’s or Sheriff’s office’s records for addresses of other properties that may be owned by the debtor, contact the tax assessor for addresses of other properties that may be owned by the debtor, examination of mortgage or conveyance records of the parish where the property is located to determine other transactions related to the property, attempt of personal or domiciliary service of the notice or posting the notice of tax sale at the property.
“If you do three of those, plus your certified letter, we’re going to conclusively say that you have made a reasonable effort to notify the tax debtor,” Wells said.