Lawmakers updated state Realtors this week on efforts to stop municipal registries of abandoned and vacant property and other pending bills affecting real estate.
State Sen. Greg Treat, R-Edmond, and state Rep. Fred Jordan, R-Jenks, spoke on a panel for the Oklahoma Association of Realtors Legislative and Economic Summit Wednesday and Thursday at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City.
The Realtors are pushing House Bill 2620 by Rep. Steve Martin, R-Bartlesville, which would ban registries – including one approved by the Oklahoma City Council in December.
Realtors also support HB 3363 by Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, which would create guidelines for cities to use in determining if an abandoned building is a public nuisance, among other regulations.
“We need to find a way to deal with blighted property that doesn’t violate a property owner’s right to do whatever they want with the property they own,” said Treat, chairman of the Senate’s General Government Committee, which will consider HB 2620. “We shouldn’t inhibit their right to find the best use for their property.”
Martin’s bill, the Realtors’ biggest legislation this year, is dubbed the Protect Property Rights Act. However, the issue seems to pit different concepts of property rights.
Oklahoma City officials who created the property registry, and opponents of HB 2620, argue that regulation of abandoned and vacant property protects property rights by protecting property values, since the regulations would force owners to maintain their property.
Lawmakers supporting registries said their constituents asked for them in the face of declining property values caused by an abundance of absentee owners and unkempt rental properties in some areas. Oklahoma City officials estimate 12,000 abandoned and vacant properties in the city limits.
The Realtors group cited a survey showing “84 percent of voters said that property owners should be able to leave their property vacant as long as the property meets building and safety codes.”
“We need to push back on overreach,” Jordan told Realtors Thursday.
Meanwhile, HB 3363, Echols’ effort to create guidelines for cities dealing with abandoned and vacant property, passed out of a Senate committee Wednesday and is headed to the Senate floor.
Richard Phillips, contract lobbyist for the Oklahoma Association of Realtors, said Friday on a video update that passage of HB 3363 “shouldn’t be any problem at all.”