New Legislation Targets Derelict Properties

BILOXI (WLOX) -- Derelict or abandoned properties are still a problem throughout South Mississippi, but new legislation will make it tougher for people to avoid cleaning up their property.

Nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina, property owners aren't following the rules, leaving their dirty work for someone else to clean up.

"Whenever the cities would have to hire contractors to clean up these abandoned and overgrown lots, the cost of the cleanup was assessed back to the property owners taxes as a special assessment," said Jerry Creel, Biloxi's Director of Community Development.

He says many property owners simply ignore those assessments, but a new House bill may change that.

"We believe that this is probably the most significant piece of legislation that has passed the state legislation to assist cities and counties in the cleanup of derelict properties, that has been passed in probably 30 years," Creel said.

As of July 1st, property owners will have to pay all assessments before they can pay their property taxes.

"When we get this money back... then we can use that money to do something else with, and we've got a lot to do believe me," said Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway.

Mayor Holloway says six months into the budget year, the city has already spent $100,000 cleaning up other people's properties. And that's taxpayer money that could be used to rebuild housing or repair roads.

Now that there's new legislation, property owners will have to clean up now, or pay a hefty price later.

The legislation affects everyone throughout the state of Mississippi and is retroactive. So if you've been assessed a fine, you cannot pay your property taxes until you pay the city or county assessment for that property.