Arena Deal Gives City Tools on Foreclosed Homes, Unregistered Cars
A recent article released by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel discussed Senate Bill 209, a piece of legislation that includes a “provision that forces buyers of foreclosed properties from Milwaukee County sheriff’s sales to record their deeds.
Arena deal gives city tools on foreclosed homes, unregistered cars
While negotiating a deal for a new downtown arena, Milwaukee officials saw an opportunity to resolve a couple of unrelated but nonetheless nagging problems:
- How to force buyers of foreclosed properties to record their deeds with the county.
- How to make sure car buyers are registered with the Department of Transportation.
Buried in the bill that provides $250 million in public subsidies for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks is a provision that forces buyers of foreclosed properties from Milwaukee County sheriff’s sales to record their deeds — an action that ensures the new owners will receive the property tax bills.
Another provision requires the seller of a vehicle to register the buyer’s identity with the Department of Transportation — an action that makes it easier for the city to track down those responsible for such things as unpaid parking tickets.
The arena bill passed 21-10 and now goes to the Assembly.
“This was real big deal to the city, so we brought it up during negotiations,” Patrick Curley, chief of staff for Mayor Tom Barrett, said in explaining why the foreclosure provision was attached to the arena financing. “We had a receptive audience, and we saw an opportunity to not just help downtown but to help the neighborhoods.”
The Wisconsin Bankers Association, which is opposing the foreclosure provision, has a different view.
“When we heard that the (foreclosure) provision was in there, we were very shocked,” said Rose Oswald Poels, the association’s president and chief executive.
“It is wholly unrelated to the economic decision” for arena financing.
Property tax bills at issue
Currently, most property buyers routinely file their titles with their county register of deeds even though no law requires they do so. The action provides notice to various governments about who owns a piece of land so officials know where to send tax bills and other vital correspondence.
A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation published in May found that at least 14% of the third-party purchases at Milwaukee County’s weekly sheriff’s sales in the past two years were not recorded with the county. As a result, city and county officials were often unsure of who owned the properties so the tax bills continued to be sent to the former property owner. Those taxes — along with fines for building code violations — often go unpaid.
The foreclosure provision will require the Milwaukee County clerk to forward the deed to the register of deeds when a judge approves the sale of foreclosed property that was sold at a sheriff’s sale.
“The deed will automatically flow from the sheriff to the clerk of courts to the register of deeds,” said Gregg Hagopian, an assistant city attorney who helped draft the provision.
The provision covers only Milwaukee County sales.
The provision’s original language covered sheriff’s sales throughout the state. The banker’s association argued that the provision be limited to Milwaukee County and that lenders be exempt.
Oswald Poels said the association will continue to fight passage of the provision as it moves to the Assembly.
The provision should be introduced as a stand-alone bill so it could be reviewed and debated at public hearings and meetings, Oswald Poels said, noting there are some technical points in the provision that concern the banker’s association. Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) had planned to bring in a stand-alone bill.
“We want the Bucks to stay,” she said. “This has nothing to do with Bucks staying or leaving.”
The vehicle owner registration provision is less controversial. The city has about $14 million in uncollected parking citations to unregistered vehicles.
About 40% of all citations have been issued to vehicles without a registered owner, according to Jennifer Gonda, the city’s chief negotiator in the arena deal.
The provision will not only help the city go after major scofflaws, she said, but will help the city track salvage sales and hold the proper people accountable in accidents.
“It’s a safety provision,” she said.
Please click here to view the article online.
Please click here to view the full proposed text of Senate Bill 209 [pdf].
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