Friday, January 10, 2014

Not too keen on DC Council's "Senior Citizen Real Property Tax Relief Act of 2013"

Vacant house that was
receiving the
Senior Citizen
Homestead Deduction

Every so often I like to check up on a property in SE DC that was once owned by my late great-aunt in the tax roles. She died 2 years ago. Before she died, she was in a nursing home for years in Maryland. She had a will and though it has been 2 years now, the house is still the deceased's name, empty, and her homestead status reads: "** Currently receiving the Senior Citizen Homestead Deduction*." The yearly tax is equal to dinner at Marcel's for two.
Last year the District of Columbia introduced legislation B20-0318 Senior Citizen Real Property Tax Relief Act of 2013. On the 7th of this year it got it's first vote/reading. Though the city can afford the loss of tax revenue however, the city's record with the plain old Senior Citizen Homestead Deduction has been poor in practice. My great aunt's house is an example of this. To the best of my knowledge the house is vacant but not blighted. Unfortunately, I've encountered a blatantly vacant house receiving the Senior Citizen Homestead Deduction that was endangering the surrounding houses. My concern is without the tax, seniors will either move or die, leaving properties to fall into disrepair, and damaging the neighborhood. Yes, there is language about qualifying and alerting the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) about periods when the owner no longer qualifies, but that is too dependent on the owner, the estate and survivors, who have zero incentive to pay up and will have less incentive to repair properties. The law is great for co-operatives and possibly condos, horrible for single family homes and townhouses.
This blog's interest is in vacant properties that are blights and harm the neighborhood. This is well meaning legislation, however, because of my observations with enforcement (or lack thereof) with the homestead exemptions (senior and non-senior) I see problems.


a neighbor said...

we have a neighbor who effectively is a squatter in one of these houses. the house was abandonded decades ago, she moved in years ago, and now she kind of sort of takes care of it. she's a nice enough lady, though her grown sons are a nuisance when they hang out in front all hours of the night making noise and drinking. it's hard to know what to do. we've reported it to dc a couple of times, nothing happened, and we feel like jerks knowing it will displace a (somewhat) decent person, though when her sons are out there that's often what incites us to action again. anyway, just another version of the problem. sigh....

Mari said...

You have a hostage situation that is common in 'transitional' neighborhoods. Grandma (any nice woman) is such sweet lady but her drug dealing kids/ grandkids boyfriend/ gentleman callers come around and behave in the most anti-social ways. Put up or the nice lady gets it.
Decide what would you do if she were your grandma and your good-for nothing cousins were coming around taking advantage of her? call senior services so she'll at least be on their radar. They are familiar with these situations.