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Bill Changes Could Streamline West Virginia’s Property Sales

The state auditor’s office announced that moving forward under the state’s new system could help streamline the process, save money and make it easier for residents to invest in dilapidated properties.

(TNS) — Recent legislative changes regarding properties delinquent on taxes will affect the way those properties are sold in an effort to streamline the process, save West Virginia state money, and make it easier for local residents to invest in dilapidated property.

Prior to the implementation of Senate Bill 552, two sales would be held annually to purchase property delinquent on taxes, one by the county sheriff's office in the spring and a second by the state auditor's office in the fall.

In the old system, the sheriff would send a list of properties not sold each year at the sheriff's sale to the state auditor's office. Properties would then be held at the auditor's office for 18 months and then put up for sale.

Thursday, the auditor's office held its final sale under the old system at the Monongalia County Courthouse.

Deputy State Auditor Russell Rollysan said moving forward under SB 552 there will be a few changes to the process, including having just one sale conducted each year by the auditor's office in each county, which will streamline the process and save the state money. This will also decrease the fees a property owner will be responsible for.

"For the overall individual, I don't think they will notice any change in the process. The sheriff will get their money, just like before—there will be no change, " Rollysan said. "The only difference is that the sale is moved from the October-November area to April, May, or June."

Rollysan said every sale will occur before July 1 at the county courthouses. The opening bid will be the same as it would have been at the sheriff's sale. Right now there is interest on the bid price of the sheriff's tax sale—that will no longer occur. There will no longer be an interest accrued on the taxes.

"The purpose in doing that is it speeds up the process while still allowing the owner more than ample time to redeem, plus decreasing the interest fees and everything to the owner, " he said.

Another goal of the bill is to remove the dilapidated buildings from all over the state. For years, properties across the state would be purchased by out-of-state speculators who only had interest in making money on the interest homeowners had to pay to get their property back.

"The vast majority of the out-of-state buyers that come in—they don't want the property, they want the interest accumulated, " Rollysan said. "As we all know, the longer a property stays on the books with no purchases, the more it becomes deteriorated.

"We realized—who are the best people to clear up a property ? It's the people next to it that have invested interest in the property—not the out-of-state people who buy it and flip it to make a quick buck."

Under the new law, if a piece of property is not bid on at the annual sale, it can still be purchased. The bill establishes an order of those who will have the opportunity to purchase an unsold property. The next-door neighbors and adjacent landowners will have the first opportunity to buy the property.

"We feel they are the best people to keep the property up because no one wants to live beside a dilapidated building, a torn-up property—they will fix it up, " Rollysan explained.

Next, municipalities or land reuse agencies will have the chance to purchase, then counties, land stewardship corporations and then the general public.

"That's encouraging, too, to us, because, as we say, the local people are the ones that know the property better than anyone else. They are more concerned because if the house next to them deteriorates then their value's going to deteriorate, " Rollysan said.

The bill also establishes a payment plan option for those whose home has been sold at a tax sale, something that was not previously available. So, if your home is sold at a tax sale, a repayment plan can be set up through the auditor's office that will allow you to make three installments before the deed is issued to the new purchaser.

Rollysan said the website for the state auditor's office is also receiving some updates that will allow people to get a statement online and make payments online. The site will have the option for people to pay by credit card as well. The money paid online will be sent back to the county sheriff.

"Anything new is scary to people, " Rollysan said. "But once they see it, they'll see that nothing changes—we're just selling the property at a later date."

(c)2022 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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