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D.A.’s office leading effort to sell tax delinquent properties

EDGARD — There have been 11 adjudicated properties in St. John the Baptist Parish sold through a partnership between the St. John the Baptist Parish District Attorney’s Office and auction house Civic Source.

District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut said three more properties are being auctioned this month.

When Dinvaut’s office first started looking at defaulted properties in the Parish, staff members discovered 5,000 properties were delinquent on taxes. That list was narrowed down to only auction properties where five or more years had elapsed from the date of an attempted tax sale, in accordance with the law.

A property is adjudicated to the Parish when property taxes have not been paid and the Sheriff is unable to sell the property at a tax sale. Adjudicated properties include a mix of locations with municipal addresses and vacant properties.

Starting this past February, residents in St. John began bidding on more than 1,000 properties, with the first one being sold March 2.

Dinvaut said her office would be heading this program through 2017, when it is turned over to Parish Government.

“If someone hasn’t paid taxes on their property for five years, that means those properties are being neglected,” Dinvaut said. “They aren’t in commerce, and we’re not receiving any tax revue from it.”

Dinvaut said, by law, the only defense for an adjudicated property is that a person redeems it, meaning they pay the taxes in order to get their property back. If taxes have not been paid, then the property goes up for auction.

Knowing that this program would take a lot of time and manpower, the District Attorney’s office teamed with Civic Source, which sends out notices and handles the abstracts.

“As far as the closings, we do that,” Dinvaut said. “I sign off on all closings. We had seven last Thursday.”

Dinvaut said she is impressed with Civic Source for numerous reasons, one being Civic Source gives new property owners title insurance.

Keith Green Jr., chief of the civil division, said the adjudication auction does not directly benefit the District Attorney’s office.

“We’re the only D.A.’s office in the state that is doing this,” he said. “This is something that is supposed to be done by the municipality, itself, because they are the group the benefits from the tax revue from property taxes. The District Attorney wanted to do it just to help the parish.”

To look at properties or bid on them, residents are encouraged to go to civicsource.com. Before a property can be put up for action, a $750 deposit has to be put down for the process to begin. Once notified, property owners have 75 days to pay their taxes or the property goes up for bid, Green said.

In order to make sure no one undercuts another person’s bid right before time runs out, a special protocol goes into action.

“If it happens, the person that was outbid by whatever amount is sent an email notification,” Green said. “They are also given an additional five minutes to place a bid above that one above theirs. Then it becomes a bidding war, but only between the two people.”

The 11 properties that have sold through auction range from the lowest, at $3,360, to the highest at $22,327.40.

Anyone with questions regarding the process or the website is encouraged to contact Darryl Isom with the District Attorney’s office at 985-652-9757.