Stettler town council instructed staff to acquire tax forfeiture title to 4810 – 48th Street, whose owner owes $6,613.33 in unpaid property taxes. A number of registered mail notices were visible on the house Nov. 6. ECA Review/S.Salkeld

Stettler town council decided it will take title of a residential parcel with a substantial unpaid tax bill after no bidders showed interest in it. 

The decision to take ownership was made at the Nov. 5 regular meeting of council.

Assistant Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Steven Gerlitz presented councillors with the results of a public auction for a residential property linked to an unpaid property tax bill.

Gerlitz’ report stated the property, described as Lot 6 Block 17, Plan RN54A or 4810 – 48th Street, went up for auction on Nov. 28 at the town office.

“Nobody came in,” said Gerlitz to council. 

It was noted in the report an unpaid property tax bill of $6,613.33 remains with the property.

The Municipal Government Act (MGA) allows for municipalities to recover unpaid property taxes through the public auction of property, but a number of rules and conditions must be followed or met first.

Gerlitz went through the methods the Town of Stettler employed to notify the property owner of the auction: “Registered mail has been returned unclaimed, enforcement would be a long process…Planning and Development Department have started enforcement process…experiencing difficulty in finding owner and having registered letters returned or unable to serve enforcement documents.”

As the property owner can’t be contacted and the property didn’t sell at auction, Gerlitz noted councillors have a few options open to them: tax forfeiture title, which means the town can rent, license, lease or dispose of the property as reasonably close to market value as possible, clear title which means after the tax forfeiture title is obtained the town can then pay the “reserve bid” or market value and take ownership of the property with any money over and above the delinquent taxes being paid to the original owner, or simply do nothing with the property and leave it as it is.

In his report Gerlitz noted the reserve bid or market value of the property is calculated at $120,480, including land and improvements.

The property was described as “unsightly” during the council meeting.

 The assistant CAO noted if the town goes with option one then issues such as its appearance can be addressed.

“While the town can proceed with more minor work like snow removal, mowing the grass and removing garbage from the lands at this time due to right of possession, once the town has title to the lands in ‘tax forfeiture,’ it will have greater certainty as to its right to address the condition of the lands and complete more significant work,” stated the staff memo.

“The town will first need to confirm, through an appraisal of the property, that the structure either adds no value to the property or more appropriately, diminishes the market value of the property due to its presence.”

During discussion Gerlitz clarified that this address included one parcel only and that it was located across from the Stettler provincial building. 

He also pointed out that if the town approves option one the property can be cleaned up and sold to a new owner.

Interestingly, Gerlitz noted in his report the MGA allows for the original property owner to regain full title if said tax arrears are paid even after the Town of Stettler acquires tax forfeiture title.

Councillors unanimously approved proceeding with option one, tax forfeiture title, on the property located at 4810 – 48th Street.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Dec 15, 2023 at 09:40

This item reprinted with permission from   East Central Alberta Review   Coronation, Alberta

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