NOTE: INCREASED BASE PURCHASE PRICE

Recently, applicants and purchasers were notified of an increase in the purchase price of parcels through the Birmingham Land Bank Authority  (BLBA) General Request program.

Since program inception, the former base price, $3,500.00, to the purchaser has meant that the BLBA would sell each parcel at a loss. In order to clear title to each of these parcels, the BLBA must file a Quiet Title Action as outlined in Alabama code 24-9-1.The expenses of the quiet title action and closing cost easily exceeded the set price by $1,500.00. As the popularity of the program grew, the amount of money allocated that would cover the $1,500.00 per parcel did not grow. The BLBA has been exposed for the cost of acquisition minus earnest money deposits. There are currently around 200 parcels scheduled to go through the courts. These will cost the BLBA, on average, around $5,000.00 per each parcel. Completing the sale of each of these parcels at the former price will leave the BLBA with a deficit of $300,000.00, plus an additional deficit of $120,000.00 in closing costs.

Unfortunately the BLBA had no choice, with its current funding, but to increase the purchase to eliminate the deficit in each transaction. The new base price has been set at $5,000.00. 

The Board of Directors and Staff of the BLBA are working to establish the land bank as a self-sustaining entity. This will ultimately enable us to transfer properties at rates that meet all of the communities needs. We recognize, appreciate and aim to collaborate with the numerous citizens and organizations doing great works in each of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhoods.

In order to reach this goal, we cannot continue to operate at a deficit. 

If you would like to learn more about the operations of the BLBA, we will schedule two sessions later this month where we will go through the property tax foreclosure laws and land bank enabling legislation and how the BLBA has navigated them in its early years.

Learn more by visiting our ABOUT page.

BACKGROUND

The number of abandoned and dilapidated structures in the City of Birmingham continues to grow each year. Many of these properties are tax delinquent and become public nuisances which require action by the City of Birmingham to abate the nuisance, for example, by demolishing a dilapidated structure or cutting an overgrown lot.

Whenever the City of Birmingham cuts an overgrown lot or demolishes a structure on a property, it attaches a lien to that property. The liens that the City attaches to each property are rarely paid. These liens can eventually total into tens of thousands of dollars and make acquisition of a property through normal market conditions infeasible. 

These liens combined with clouded title can make acquisition of a property in fee simple financially impossible.

It is important to note that there are numerous routes one can take to acquire tax delinquent property. Through the Birmingham Land Bank, the purchaser receives fee simple ownership of the parcel with CLEAR TITLE via a Warranty deed that warrants against all defects in the title. In order to clear title to each of these parcels, the BLBA must file a Quiet Title Action as outlined in Alabama code 24-9-1.The BLBA also extinguishes municipal liens and assessments with the goals to make fee simple ownership of each property, financially feasible.

Why has it taken so long?

Sewer Liens

The BLBA hopes that an agreement with Jefferson County on the outstanding sewer liens attached to land bank eligible parcels. 

The issue has stalled action on around 35% of our acquisitions.

Title Insurance

From the end of 2016 until January of 2018, the BLBA was unable to close on the sale of a single property due to refusal by many title insurance companies to issue title insurance policies for tax delinquent property.

The primary reason for the delay in closings was due to concerns by some title insurers over verification of compliance with the very thorough statutory process the Land Bank must follow in order to clear tile to tax delinquent properties. (A property is generally ineligible for government programming and development/renovation financing without it being able to have its title insured.)

Land Bank attorneys and staff worked with several title insurance companies to develop processes to enable the insurers to be comfortable insuring the titles of properties processed through our program.

We are now working to clear the backlog of closings that developed so that ownership of the properties can be transferred to citizens and organizations ready to put return the properties to productive use.

Applications

Each application received must be reviewed and vetted. Each purchase contract is not a simple purchase contract, but a development agreement. The goals of the program are to put the purchaser in position of have fee simple ownership of a property and to be able to fully invest in the parcel without the possibility that someone will come back and redeem the property.

The vetting also is in place to interrupt the passive speculative market associated with tax delinquent properties that is detriment to Birmingham.

The number of applications received by the three member BLBA staff has now exceeded 4,500. BLBA staff is working to have an efficient system in place by January that will allow for clear communication and status updates on each acquisition.

While we have faced numerous obstacles in building a program from scratch, it is important to note that the amount 140+ parcels that have gone through the court system and are ready to close represent a huge milestone in putting tax delinquent properties back to productive use.

Our team is on the ground and wants to ensure that each and every individual/organization is able to invest and improve their neighborhood. 

Definitions

Tax Delinquent Property- Property taxes in the State of Alabama become due annually on October 1st. On January 1st of the next year, they become delinquent. Tax certificates on delinquent properties are sold each year in May.

Fee Simple- Land owned in fee simple is owned completely without any limitations or conditions.

Land Bank Eligible Properties- Properties that go unsold in the County tax sale are then deemed sold to the State of Alabama Department of Revenue(ADOR). A property must sit with the ADOR and be delinquent for five years before it is eligible to be acquired by the Birmingham Land Bank Authority.

Quiet Title Action- A lawsuit filed to clear and quiet the title of properties in which the Birmingham Land Bank Authority has acquired the tax deed. This lawsuit requires an attorney to examine the title of a property and notify anyone with an interest in the property (heirs, lienholders,and mortgagees) that a petition to quiet title has been filed. Any party that has been determined to have an interest in the property has the ability to redeem (pay the back taxes, interest and any fees incurred) the property in accordance with Ala. Code Title 40, Chapter 10 up until the date of final judgement. With a final judgement, the Court may grant fee simple title to the property, which shall vest title absolutely in the BLBA. The BLBA will then have ability to convey property with marketable and insurable title to a new owner.