To Protect Housing Stock, West Virginia Bans Bad Buyers from Tax Sales

West Virginia’s SB 548 creates a registry for tax sale bidders and bans bidders with a history of misusing properties and delinquent taxes. 

In a move meant to better preserve housing stock set for tax sale, West Virginia took the extraordinary step of effectively banning bidders with histories of delinquent property taxes and misuse of property. SB 548 requires that all potential buyers for tax sales join a state registry, whereby state officials can cross reference their property tax payment history and history of code and other violations. Buyers who are found to have negative histories will be unable to purchase properties at tax sale. The bill also requires LLCs to register certain information with the state.

Property speculators are a significant source of blight in West Virginia. Often, out-of-state investors purchase properties at an incredible discount, and instead of redeveloping properties, they allow structures to decay with the hopes of selling the surrounding land at a profit. Hopefully, The new policy will weed out bad property owners and encourage investment and preservation of existing housing stock.

A Possibility for Maryland? 

Maryland has its share of blighted and abandoned properties, largely in Baltimore City, Western Maryland, and certain segments of the Washington D.C. region. As the General Assembly prepares to reconvene for its annual legislative session in January, legislators and advocates should come together to address blight statewide. Restricting bad actors from participating in tax sales is an interesting solution, especially with a neighbor like West Virginia leading the way. Further action can also be taken to ensure that speculatory or disinterested property owners are required to maintain certain standards of habitability. Artificially removing units from the market only serves to further degrade communities and places excessive and unseen costs on local taxpayers.

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