The Washington D.C. Council recently passed legislation that will make it more expensive for owners to hold vacant or blighted property.
The Vacant Property Enforcement Act of 2016 reduces the maximum amount of time a vacant property can qualify for an exemption from higher vacancy tax rates. It also closes a loophole that allows continuous renewal of construction permits to qualify for tax exemptions, and require owners of vacant properties to prove they are no longer subject to the higher tax rates.
"The District has a substantial number of vacant properties, many of which are poorly maintained,” the bill report says. "Property owners may keep their properties vacant or fail to maintain them because they expect property values to rise over time. Poorly maintained and vacant properties can damage surrounding communities by being eyesores, by serving a venue for drug use and by providing a home for rodents or other animals. The net effect is to reduce the feeling of a cohesive community and depress surrounding property values."
The legislation reduces the time an owner can claim an exemption from higher taxes because of construction to one year for residential properties and to two years for commercial properties. Fines for failing to comply with city property regulations will rise from $1,000 to $5,000.