By Steven Allen Adams, for The Intelligencer of Wheeling
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Auditor J.B. McCuskey believes that changes made to the process surrounding tax sales of properties by county sheriff’s departments are providing benefits for property owners, local governments and economic development.
“For the last three years … we have made the reformation of our tax sale process one of our primary objectives in my office,” McCuskey said by phone this week. “The auctions that we held started to push the property into either the neighbors’ hands, the city’s hands, the county’s hands or the economic development/land bank’s hands.”
County sheriff’s departments mail out tax tickets to property owners each year. Taxes that go unpaid result in those property owners being placed on the delinquent list by the sheriff’s departments. Those lists are presented to county commissions by May 15 each year, then sent to the State Auditor’s Office by June 1.
The following year, a second list of delinquent properties is prepared by county sheriff’s departments. If taxes remain unpaid by Nov. 1, those properties are certified to the State Auditor’s Office. In order to redeem the property, the owner must pay two years of taxes, interest, charges and a redemption fee. If the taxes on the property are still unpaid, the property is certified for public auction beginning March 1 of each year. Property auctions are later held in each county.
The changes took place after the passage of Senate Bill 552 last year, the first time the sheriff’s tax sale process has been altered in more than 30 years. McCuskey said the previous process for tax sales gave too much power to out-of-state land speculators and absentee landlords to swoop in, buy properties and allow them to remain vacant and dilapidated. …