When it comes to dealing with adjudicated properties, Bossier Parish Administrator Bill Altimus readily admits he would prefer someone else deal with the disposition of those parcels.
Adjudicated properties are those that have been seized when the owner fails to pay property taxes and then are not purchased when the Sheriff conducts a tax sale.
“By law, if no one buys the land at the tax sale, it’s adjudicated to the parish for the taxes owed. The Parish gets it whether wanted or not,” Altimus explained.
Although the parish isn’t soliciting this property, once possession has been established by adjudication to the police jury, the police jury then goes about the business of trying to keep the grass mowed and removing the dilapidated structures that may be on the property. The parish also must wade through the paperwork nightmare of tax properties.
“Many of these properties have been neglected because the previous owners never went through the court process when someone died in the chain of title. By the time the last person quits paying taxes, several generations of people with interest in the property will have died. Sometimes, who owns the property is a nightmare to try and figure out,” Altimus said.
“The only interest we have is for the unpaid taxes. We want to see the property be taken care of and be back on the taxable rolls again,” he added.
Concerns over the approximately 160 pieces of adjudicated property on the parish’s books, parcels ranging in size from slivers of land measured in feet to several acres, made Altimus listen closely when he heard a presentation on adjudicated properties from a Louisiana-based company.
“This company, CivicSource, put on a program at the state police jury convention and I found it very interesting. Then, about a month ago at the Organization of Parish Officials meeting, they made another presentation. It sounded very good because it’s a turnkey product,” Altimus said.
Altimus asked company officials to come to Benton and discuss the issue at length.
“They have come up with a way to clear all state laws. They do their due diligence, give a good clear title that a title insurance company will issue a policy on,” he explained. “The biggest benefit CivicSource offers is providing a merchantable, sellable title for the buyer and it’s a turnkey project done completely within their organization.”
Benefits to the police jury of outsourcing adjudicated property are numerous, Altimus said. The last public auction took the staff several hundred hours to put together property that ultimately only received a quit claim deed. With a quit claim deed, the ultimate purchaser can not easily go to any lenders to build a home or make investment into these properties, making them less attractive to potential buyers.
“It releases any of our personnel of having to deal with this. We do nothing but provide them a list of the properties on a flash drive…generate information,” he said. “At the end of the day, this service is provided at no cost to the police jury.”
Altimus learned the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office has been a client of CivicSource for two years. During that time, the office has seen a savings of about $36,000 per year.
“That’s the salary of an individual who had to do the things the company now handles,” Altimus said. “Until the tax sale is completed, they make the phone calls, files notices, do the research, handle post-sale efforts and send letters to tax sale buyers, property owners and do the deed preparation. Everything necessary to meet state laws.”
Outsourcing the adjudicated property “…makes sense. When we can eliminate the headache of dealing with tax properties and get the services they provide at no cost, we need to go ahead,” Altimus said.