Jamie Smith-Hopkins from the Sun wrote about the proposed split-level property tax rate that would result in higher property taxes for owners of vacant properties, in her December 13th “Real Estate Wonk” column. The resolution passed the Baltimore City Council, and is already generating quite a bit of debate.  Those who are against the property tax hike for derelict properties seem to drag out a Washington Times article that on the surface, seems to support the belief that the increased tax is a bad idea.

Unfortunately for the Washington Times, it would seem they didn’t do such a great job of investigating the people quoted in the article.  All of them seem to blame their financial hardships on the DC property tax increase, including one person (Patricia Sweeney) who said. “Last year was a horrible experience with Class 3 properties, and I am no longer doing rehabs in D.C.. I have been stung really bad in D.C., and I will be avoiding it forever.”  If 2008 proved difficult for Ms. Sweeney, we have to wonder how well she was doing between 2005 and 2007, when she was the defendant in several lawsuits, including three foreclosures in Baltimore City.  She might want to avoid doing business in Baltimore, too, if DC proved to be such “a horrible experience”.

Ron Edlavitch, described as a “lawyer who has worked for renovators and lenders for 40 years” has also been the subject of numerous lawsuits in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, mostly condemations and foreclosures.

Eric Deyale claims to have lost one of his properties as a result of the higher tax rate — yet he couldn’t manage to hold on to another property before the higher rate went into effect, losing it because of overdue 2007 taxes.

Sorry folks, but these stories just don’t ring true with us.  If these people were already being sued, forclosed on, and otherwise riding a slipperly slope to financial ruin, an increased tax wouldn’t have mattered much by the time 2008 rolled around.  And it’s not going to be the financial ruin of honest property owners in Baltimore City, either.  What it will do, however, is make it increasingly difficult for speculators and dishonest property owners to continue to leave neighborhoods in ruin.

Again, we strongly urge you to stop listening to slumlords and those who are tangled in a business mess with slumlords, and please urge Maryland’s elected officials to raise the property taxes for derelict properties.  This could go a long way towards cleaning up our city, boosting revenue, and opening the door for homeownership for those who deserve it.

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