Town looks to remedy delinquent properties

Published 6:15 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2016

BELHAVEN — The Town of Belhaven is cracking down on its delinquent properties.

At Monday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting, town Manager Woody Jarvis told the board he has sent out letters to property owners failing to maintain their properties and/or pay taxes or maintenance fees, giving them 30 days to respond with a plan of action.

If the owners do not present a plan to clean up their property or agree to pay for the town’s maintenance of it, it is essentially another step closer to foreclosure, according to Jarvis. There are between 20 and 30 of these lots in Belhaven, he said.

“We have a large amount of real estate in the town that’s been abandoned,” Jarvis said. “We don’t live in a perfect world, and not everybody takes care of their stuff.”

He said each property has its own distinctive situation around it, whether it has been passed on to multiple heirs living elsewhere or has owners who are unaware of its neglect.

According to Jarvis, owners have a few options: agree to clean up the property themselves and settle any outstanding taxes, if any; pay the town to maintain the lot; or take no action and have the county place a lien (a record of outstanding debt) on the property.

If the property obtains a certain threshold of liens, set by the county, then it will go into foreclosure. The process of foreclosure, however, is a long process and the last possible outcome.

“We get all kinds of twists,” Jarvis said. “How do you take care of them (the properties) appropriately?”

Alderman Ricky Credle asked what would happen to a property if the situation comes to foreclosure.

Jarvis responded that the county would likely obtain the land and cover its outstanding debts. He said it would be costly for the town to try to claim ownership of the lot, as Belhaven would have to cover the debts in that case.

“I wanted to clear the air a little bit and let you know we are working on it,” he told the board. “This is the process that everybody else has to follow, too.”

Jarvis said he has heard many comments about the delinquent lots, and the situation needs to be fixed, as overgrown vegetation could lead to the spread of rodents, insects and snakes to an adjacent, inhabited property.

“We don’t want to do anything the wrong way. We want to make sure everybody is being treated fairly,” he said.