New state laws to aid in dealing with problem properties

Two new state laws scheduled to take effect July 1 are going to help local governments rid neighborhoods of problem properties.

The first deals with cases where cities and county governments have had to spend thousands of dollars to clear weeded or abandoned lots, and the second allows cities to seize properties with a documented history of criminal violations.

Under House Bill 572, owners of derelict structures and unkempt properties will now be required to pay expenses that local governments incur in cleaning their property.

The new state law — which was sponsored by several Coast legislators — requires property owners to pay any special assessments before they are allowed to pay their annual property taxes.

“In the case of Biloxi, we’ve had to budget as much as $100,000 each year to handle these cases,” Community Development Director Jerry Creel said. “This is money that could be used for affordable housing programs or to address other issues.”

Cities traditionally pay contractors to clear unkempt properties or remove derelict structures, and file a special assessment or lien against the property to recover the cost to taxpayers.

“The owners of problem properties have been able to pay their annual property taxes and ignore the special assessment,” Creel said. “That’s unfair to the law-abiding public because it ties up public money for years. Now, cities will be able to recoup money quicker because owners of these problem properties will have to pay the assessment before they can pay their taxes.”

House Bill 342 allows municipalities “to seize abandoned houses or buildings that are used for the sale or use of drugs, and to allow such municipalities to sell, transfer or convey or use such seized houses or buildings.”

Read more online

—To see House Bill 572, as signed into law by the governor, click here.

—To see House Bill 342, as signed into law by the governor, click here.

Honorees, photos from preservation awards

Individuals, civic groups and businesses were honored by the city Thursday evening during the annual Preservation Awards.

To read the list of honorees and see photographs from the City Hall ceremony,
click here.