Oklahoma City’s new ordinance creating a registry for vacant property — paid for by the property owners — was too much for state Realtors, who call it an attack on property rights.
The Oklahoma Association of Realtors is leading support for a House bill to kill it and others support the effort. The Realtors, the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association, Oklahoma Credit Union Association, Oklahoma Bankers Association and Oklahoma Farm Bureau have come out for House Bill 2620, sponsored by Rep. Steve Martin, R-Bartlesville.
The Oklahoma City Council unanimously approved registration and fees — the Realtors call them fines — in December. The responding bill, which passed a House committee on a 6-4 vote last week, would prohibit property registries, include Oklahoma City’s. The bill goes next to the House floor.
The city ordinance was “presented as an effort to address abandoned and neglected property,” but it “mandates excessive fees, public registration requirements and expensive government inspections for well-maintained yet vacant property,” said Matt Robison, vice president of government affairs for the Oklahoma Association of Realtors.
The Realtors said other cities also are considering registries. Discussion of such a registry in Enid — and a draft copy of an ordinance — caused alarm among Realtors.
“This (Oklahoma City) ordinance has now become a model for other municipalities,” Robison said. “In an effort to protect property rights and keep local governments from overreach for the purpose of generating revenue, this bill assures that municipalities cannot mandate such registries.”
Oklahoma City officials estimated some 12,000 vacant or abandoned buildings in the city.
“Property ownership records are already public. Such registries represent overbearing governmental intrusion and do not protect property rights. Private property remains of great value to Oklahomans,” Robison said.
An Oklahoma City study last year cited rundown houses and commercial buildings as an across-the-board drag on property values. But, Robison said, vacant does not mean dilapidated, and he questioned city officials who would presume a vacant property to be a nuisance.
“There are many reasons a property may be vacant: a death in the family; foreclosure proceedings; commercial property awaiting a desired client; or a sentimental family farmhouse on property where a new residence is built,” Robison said.
Joe Pryor, immediate past president of the Oklahoma Association of Realtors, said a registry will do nothing “to solve a complex problem.”
“It is, more than anything, a revenue producer that allows for sweeping powers over what is considered vacant but not abandoned or neglected,” said Pryor, an agent with Redbud Realty & Associates in Edmond. “No matter how well intended, here’s the bottom line of this ordinance. Under certain circumstances, if you don’t sell your home within 30 days of moving out, you will be fined $285 plus the potential of $190 per month thereafter.
“No worthwhile economist would say this is a good idea. We all understand the importance of dealing with dilapidated property. That’s why Oklahoma statutes already have laws on the books allowing municipalities to tear them down.”
Jennifer Blackwell, government affairs director for the Greater Tulsa Association of Realtors, said the Realtors’ lobbying is in response to the Oklahoma Municipal League, which “mounted a campaign which included a ‘Call For Action,’ direct lobbying and verbal testimony. Our (The Realtors’) response mirrored that effort, which resulted in this narrow victory.”
She said a House member reported “feeling the pressure” from the Municipal League.
“We expect this to remain a difficult challenge throughout session,” Blackwell said.
State Realtors have a website to garner support for the bill: www.protectpropertyrightsok.com.