Councilmember Silverman Introduces Vacant Property Enforcement Amendment Act

At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman introduced the Vacant Property Enforcement Amendment Act of 2016 at today’s legislative meeting of the D.C. Council. Co-introduced by Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers Allen, Bonds, Cheh, Evans, May, McDuffie, Nadeau, and Todd, the legislation aims to deter owners from neglecting their properties and encourage them to bring their properties into compliance with the District’s vacant property law.

“I frequently hear from residents how vacant properties harm their neighborhoods and present public safety hazards. Absentee property owners need to take responsibility for their properties and comply with our vacant property laws,” said Silverman during her opening statement.

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) has designated nearly 1,300 properties in the District as vacant or blighted.

“That’s nearly 1,300 buildings that, instead of providing shelter or valuable retail space, pose a threat to our neighbors’ sense of security and their property values—and those are just the ones that are actually registered,” said Silverman.

The bill would reduce the maximum amount of time a vacant property can qualify for an exemption from higher vacancy tax rates and close a loophole that allows continuous renewal of construction permits to qualify for tax exemptions. Further, the legislation instructs DCRA to investigate properties with very low water usage to determine if they are vacant and raises fines for property owners that fail to register or allow inspections of their vacant properties.

“The bill I introduced today complements the Vacant and Blighted Buildings Enforcement Amendment Act of 2015 that I introduced last December,” said Silverman. “Both bills are necessary to confront the problem of properties remaining vacant for years. Together, they give DCRA the tools it needs to properly monitor, identify, and classify vacant properties.”

The bill also includes benefits for owners of vacant properties that promptly comply with the law by allowing them to receive a partial rebate of one year of vacant property taxes if they follow all legal requirements and ensure the property is occupied within one year of becoming vacant.

The legislation was referred to the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs.