This week, State Representatives Thomas West (D-Canton) and Doug Green (R-Mt. Orab) introduced HB598, legislation that was developed by Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) and the Ohio Revitalization Steering Committee (RSC). HB598 proposes to change state law to permit county auditors to hold forfeited land sales at a time of their choosing, rather than once annually as currently required under statute. Forfeited land sale properties consist of properties that have been foreclosed upon for delinquent taxes and have been offered at Sheriff’s Sale on two separate occasions for the total amount of taxes, assessments, penalties and interest due, plus cost. Not sold for want of bidders, the properties were forfeited to the State of Ohio by court order and remanded to the county auditor for sale.
Properties that are sold at forfeited land sales are not available for inspection prior to their sale by the general public, though land banks – on of the potential acquirers of the properties – are able to inspect the properties prior to sale. Because most prospective purchasers are unable to inspect properties, often times they find after the sale that a property may have far more deficiencies than they had planned when making the purchase. As a result, these properties often slip back into delinquency and end up back on a forfeited land sales list.
This vicious cycle of neglect results in blighted neighborhoods with little hope for revitalization. Because current law mandates county auditors hold these sales annually, there is no ability to hold the properties and slow this cycle. Enactment of HB598 will allow county auditors to hold sales when they deem necessary, and will permit entities like county land banks to acquire the properties and do the necessary revitalization work to turn the properties into community assets instead of blights.
HB598 also includes an additional provision which, with enactment, will create parity between county and city land banks. Under current law, a county land bank can hold properties indefinitely without the necessity of offering the properties for sale at an auction. City land banks however, are required to offer properties for sale at an auction after 15 years. This discrepancy exists because the statutes were enacted at different times (city land banks pre-date county land banks). HB598 eliminates the requirement to offer the properties for sale at an auction after 15 years, thereby creating uniformity under state law concerning land bank-held properties.