City has teeth in fight against abandoned properties

click to enlarge City has teeth in fight against abandoned properties
Mark Hancock
Vacant property at 1324 SW 43rd during an inspection.

Oklahoma City’s attempt to create an abandoned building registry last year was brought to a halt by the state Legislature and was opposed by local realtors. A new attempt to reduce the number of vacant and abandoned properties was approved by the Oklahoma City Council last week, this time winning approval from the real estate community.

“I have to give the city a lot of credit on this one,” said Nels Petersen, president of the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors.

The new ordinance will allow the city to fine building owners who fail to maintain their property, along with setting up a system for recovering police and fire expenses, which can accumulate quickly at abandoned homes and buildings, city officials said.

The previous effort to create a registry and fee for owners of abandoned property was opposed by realtors who felt it would unfairly hurt those owners who maintained their property.

“Really, it came down to definitions,” Petersen said. “We didn’t feel that an uninhabited building should necessarily fall on this list. There are vacant properties all over that we have no idea they are vacant because they are taken care of.”

Petersen said his group continued to work with the city to find a solution and he praised city staff for its work over the past few months.

“The proposed ordinance will create a schedule of escalating class ‘A’ fines to increase the pressure on the offender to remedy the problem,” City Manager Jim Couch said in a memo to the city council. “This may slightly lengthen the abatement timeline but will help with the eventual determination of abandonment and may help with the cost recovery allowed under the new state statute.”

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