1,000 defaulted properties: D.A unveils program to sell locations

Published 12:12 am Saturday, October 31, 2015

LAPLACE — More than a 1,000 properties in St. John the Baptist Parish have defaulted to parish control because property owners failed to pay taxes on them.

The Parish has to maintain those properties by cutting the grass, and it’s expensive for administrators and tax payers, St. John the Baptist Parish Assessor Whitney Joseph Jr. said.

“There needs to be a process to sell the properties and put them back on the market or commerce, thereby taking that responsibility away from the Parish,” Joseph said. “It’s a burden on tax payers. Those dollars could be used for something else.”

The St. John the Baptist Parish District Attorney’s Office announced it created a process to list and sell those properties to prospective buyers, and auctions can begin as soon as Feb. 1.

A property is adjudicated to the Parish when property taxes have not been paid and the Sheriff is unable to sell the property at a tax sale, Keith Green Jr. said.

Green is the chief of civil division for the District Attorney’s Office.

Green said upcoming adjudicated property sales are an attempt to collect on delinquent taxes that have never been paid.

“The idea is to get these properties back into the stream of commerce and back onto the tax rolls,” Green said. “All of the properties have taxes that are due, and that is revenue the Parish consistently loses every year they are declared adjudicated.”

Adjudicated properties include a mix of locations with municipal addresses and vacant properties. The District Attorney’s Office is only auctioning properties where five or more years have elapsed from the date of an attempted tax sale, in accordance with state law.

A prospective buyer can first view available property online at civicsource.com, starting Dec. 1. If interested, they place a $750 deposit on a specific property.

Once that deposit is received, Green said the D.A.’s office begins the process of researching the title and complying with the notice requirements outlined under Louisiana law, which give the current property owner 60 days to redeem the property. This deposit puts the property in the research and notice phase.

“After that time, if the property has not been redeemed and there are no title issues that would restrict the property from being transferred, it then moves over to step two of the process, which is the auction,” Green said.

At this point, anyone can bid on the property.

For this process, there is a 12-hour auction, where whomever is the highest bidder is the winner. Anyone who logs onto civicsource.com can bid.

In the event the highest bidder is not the original depositor, the $750 deposit is returned.

After someone wins the bid on the property, they receive full title of ownership and title insurance. The property will then be free of any liens or mortgages.

The new property owner should have closing scheduled within 72 hours of payment of the winning bid price. After which they can do what they want with the property.

Those who would like to participate in the auctions are advised to register for free at civicsource.com.

— By Raquel Derganz Baker