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Purchasing Vacant Lot (Owner Owes Back Taxes = Property Value)

Posted Jan 22 2022, 10:16

There is a vacant lot behind my home and I'd like to own it and I wonder if the BP community has any advice. 

I live in Lexington, KY. The vacant lot is valued at $15K by the city. It has been handed down through a few generations and the current owner stopped paying taxes about 10 years ago. The back taxes owed are > $13.5K. It's worth noting that the lot is small enough (~0.04 acres) that a developer couldn't purchase it and build on it as zoning wouldn't allow.

I've talked to a few of the city offices (County Clerk, County Attorney, and Department of Law). Because the city knows it isn't likely to auction for > $6K (the legal fees that the County Attorney estimates it will cost to claim and auction the property), they don't think it's worth the effort. I assured them we would be happy to pay that amount or more, but because legally the property has to be auctioned, there is no way for us to commit via contract.

I could try to purchase the property from the current owner and pay the back taxes. But, $15K is a lot to pay for such a small lot (nevertheless, we did try to get ahold of them with little luck). So this is a bit of a catch 22.

Here is where I could use some advice. Short of trying to purchase from the owner, the only solution seems to be to encourage the city to put a lean on the property and get it to auction. I received some advice that Code Enforcement is the most likely department to put a lean on the property if they deem it an unreasonable expense to enforce/maintain. Has anyone had any luck with this? I feel like it could take forever to actually get a lean placed and then wait for the city to go through the formalities of giving the owner a chance to pay and then going to auction. I suspect that it would be a minimum of two years if we were lucky.

Any perspective or strategies are welcomed. 

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