Redmond city councilors approved a list of 57 tax lots for property liens Tuesday, after the property owners failed to pay for city-mandated corrections of code violations.
It’s not big money recovering the expenses spent to clean up properties cited for code violations like excessive weeds or junk. But the city of Redmond has found that filing liens against property owners reluctant to pay those bills is much more effective than the old method of using collection agencies, according to Heather Richards, community development director.
The 37 property owners approved for liens during the City Council meeting — some with multiple tax lots — constitute an unusually long list. Last June, only three properties had liens instituted, but this fall, new accounting software installed by the city caused delays in pulling all the data needed. Typically, the city compiles a short list of noncompliant owners every quarter.
“It’s really about expending public funds for private work,” Richards said. “We’re not trying to make money, just break even.”
A year ago the city analyzed its new system and found that of 1,794 code enforcement violations in the prior 18 months, only 145 required cleanup by the city, and only 70 of those went unpaid, requiring liens. The funds recovery rate was nearly 25 percent, according the report.
Often, the city only gets the money it’s owed when a property sells, but that is still more often than previously, Richards said.
When property owners are found to be in violation of property codes, the city mails out a notification, with a 10-day window to resolve the problem.
If the property is found to be out of compliance after that time, the city mails a certified letter, giving the property owner 10 more days.
Thirty days after the first letter, the owner is notified that the city will hire a private contractor to take care of the violation and bill the owner.
Ninety days after sending a bill, the city has authorization to institute a lien.
The current list of delinquent properties contains about $17,304 in money owed, with the largest bill roughly $2,900 and the smallest $213. Staff time to pursue compliance is factored into the bills sent to owners, Richards said.
The city is still trying to find a solution for disadvantaged property owners, those whose age, disability or income makes cleanup impossible. City staff are interested in working with community groups like churches, youth or civic organizations that may want to partner with the city on a program.