Morristown City Council approves adjusted tax rate

The Morristown City Council is making progress in clearing the backlog of real estate – mostly vacant lots – rendered unsalable by high property-maintenance and demolition liens.

As a means of goading property owners to mow their lawns and keep up the appearance of their homes, city government began doing the work itself and loading the bill onto property taxes. What resulted, in part, were liens that far exceed the value of the real estate, according to Morristown City Attorney Lauren Carroll.

With council’s authorization, Carroll purchased 22 delinquent-tax properties on Saturday. After subtracting the demolition and property-maintenance liens, the city wound up about $35,000 in the red, a cost that will be partially or totally eliminated when city government sells real estate.

“We want to recover as much money as we can,” Carroll said this morning.

The properties have different redemption periods, which is the effective date city government can take further steps to rid itself of what Carroll characterizes as “problem children.”

Fifteen problem children have 90-day redemption periods, a time during which the property owner can clear the bill and reclaim the properties. Five have a 180-day redemption period, and two will come into city possession in one year, according to the city attorney.

As soon as the redemption periods run, the properties will come off the Morristown and Hamblen County tax rolls and city government will be able to begin marketing the real estate. Carroll told councilmembers Tuesday that she had inquiries about some of the properties at Saturday’s tax sale.

Carroll says she does not expect the property owners to pay the taxes and liens and reclaim real estate. Many are dead, and the land is divided among multiple heirs who no longer live in this area. Another reason is that the properties have been up for sale at multiple delinquent-tax sales, and if there were going to be any takers, they would have pulled the trigger before now.

A vacant lot in the 800 block of Crescent Street is the best example of why these properties are not selling. The demolition and property-maintenance liens total more than $29,300.

While the final decision about how to dispose of the real estate will be made by councilmembers, Carroll says the city could conduct sale of its own – minus the demolition and property-maintenance liens – or the properties could be listed with a real estate agent.