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By Altus Group | November 15, 2016

In the following Altus Group podcast, Jeremy Chitlik, a Director at Altus Group, discusses how property owners can best deal with the recently passed blight-fighting measure aimed at making it harder for landlords to neglect vacant properties in Washington, D.C.


The Washington, D.C. City Council recently passed a measure that changed the enforcement on vacant and blighted properties, currently taxed at a rate of 5 and 10 percent respectively, until the owners have proven that they are dealing with the abandoned structure.

Prior to the provision, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) had to verify every six months that a building is vacant or blighted, whether or not the owner has indicated that they’ve made any improvements.

The Vacant Property Enforcement Act of 2016 essentially aims to reduce the maximum amount of time a vacant property can qualify for an exemption from higher vacancy tax rates. This provision closes a loophole that allows continuous renewal of construction permits to qualify for tax exemptions. It also requires owners of vacant properties to prove they are no longer subject to the higher tax rates.

If a property owner gets placed into this program, this is what is required to become exempt, according to the D.C. government:

  • The building is under active construction or undergoing active rehabilitation, renovation, or repair.
  • You have been actively seeking to rent or sell the building for less than one (1) year for residential properties, and less than two (2) years for commercial properties.
  • The building is subject to a probate proceeding or the title is the subject of litigation.

In addition, Altus Group recommends providing detailed information to DCRA in order to be granted an exemption, and to clean up the properties to divert attention from their site.  The firm can help property owners to best manage this process, as well as provide additional insights for achieving a long-term exemption.

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