DC cracks down on tax evasion for vacant and rundown properties

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According to DC tax records, the owner of 1000 C Street, NE made a payment of nearly $4,000 on March 28, but still owes more than $116,000.

WASHINGTON – Editor’s Note: The above video originally aired in April 2021.

The owner of a building in Ward 6 that has sat vacant for years was sued Monday by the DC attorney general.

According to Attorney General Karl Racine, the owner of 1000 C Street NE “made false statements to avoid paying the higher property taxes” that DC imposes on buildings deemed vacant or destroyed. Owners of vacant properties typically pay five times what the average DC homeowner pays, while owners of rundown properties pay about ten times the tax most average homeowners pay. The DC City Council changed property tax rates on such buildings in 2011 to encourage homeowners to fix “awful” properties.

The lawsuit claims that despite the building’s closed and crumbling exterior, the owner, George Papageorge, claims the building is occupied and thus avoids paying the higher taxes. Racine alleges the landlord has been avoiding taxes since at least 2015.

According to DC’s latest tax records, the owner of 1000 C Street made a payment of nearly $4,000 on March 28, but still owes more than $116,000. Previously, a similar payment was made in September 2021, a payment over $13,000 was submitted in May 2021, and two payments of just under $3,000 were made in 2019.

In a press release, Racine said more than 3,000 properties are currently vacant in the district.

“Too many District residents are struggling to find safe and affordable places to live, as more than 3,000 homes are vacant across the city,” Racine wrote in the statement. “The Council has imposed higher taxes on vacant and run-down homes to provide an incentive for owners to keep properties in use and in good condition. But instead of fixing, renting, or selling those homes, some homeowners repeatedly lie to avoid paying the taxes they owe. This is not acceptable, and we warn homeowners: if you own a vacant home, you must register it with the district and pay all required taxes. If you try to cheat the system, the Attorney General’s Office will hold you accountable. »

According to DC’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), the main difference between a degraded building and a vacant building is that a degraded building is a danger to the “general well-being of the community,” while a vacant property is simply not occupied. . If a property is vacant, the DC code requires the owner to register it with DCRA’s Vacant Building Administration annually within 30 days of vacancy.

“Failure to register your building may result in civil and/or criminal penalties of $2,000 in fines per violation and up to 90 days in jail,” the DCRA writes on its website.

RELATED: DC Neighborhood Takes a Stand Against Vacant Buildings

WUSA9 visited 1000 C Street NE in November 2020 for research into the city’s handling of rundown properties. WUSA9 found vacant property stickers, plywood doors, and weeds growing on the roof of the property.

“It’s really just a sad sight for this region, and I don’t know what else we can do.” neighbor Sharon Boeson told WUSA9 in 2020.

There is even a parody twitter account dedicated to 1000 C Street, calling out years of overdue property tax bills on the property and deriding the building as an eyesore.

“Pretty much do whatever I want while the real owner is on vacation,” the account’s bio reads.

WUSA9 spoke to Papageorge, in November 2020, and he said he views DC’s treatment of him as “unconstitutional extortion”. Papageorge wrote in a subsequent email that DC’s property classification system “is very often imposed without due process and that property owners’ appeal rights are generally blocked (deliberately) and trampled upon by the District of Columbia government. “.

He declined to say what he would do with the property in the future and did not answer further questions.

“This is an important step in what should be the final chapter of three decades of a vacant building in our city,” council chairman Phil Mendelson said of Racine’s lawsuit. “I hope this lawsuit sends a message that the District is serious about fraud and that these LLCs need to make an effort to get their properties back into service rather than keep trying to game the system.”

According to Racine’s office, the lawsuit seeks $750,000 from Papageorge in “unpaid property taxes, damages and penalties.”

If you have a vacant or damaged building in your neighborhood and you think authorities haven’t done enough to fix it, we want to hear from you. Take a photo of it, use our WUSA9 Mobile app and send the photo to us on our new “Near Me” feature.

RELATED: DC Council President Calls for Action on Long-Crumbling Buildings

RELATED: DC Agency Admits Some Building Owners Can ‘Game’ the Tax System. here’s how


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9I93pB98OIs

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