Tax relief denied for delinquent, vacant trailers

·4 min read

After much discussion, Council denied a request to write-off property taxes and related penalties on two derelict mobile homes within the Hillcrest Mobile Home Park.

The total outstanding amount owing on both properties added up to $7,021.45. At the Nov. 3 regular council meeting, administration recommended writing off the amount of $5,149 that is outstanding beyond three years.

This would leave only three years outstanding taxation and penalties owing, which the mobile park would have been required to cover.

Instead, council directed administration to bring back a report regarding taxation of mobile home park property and residences before the end of June 2021.

“It needs to get dealt with in some way so there’s something that guides administration for how to deal with this when it continuously repeatedly keeps coming up. If there’s a bylaw that directs administration on what to do in this type of situation or perhaps there is no dealing with this situation, it’s the property park owners responsibility,” said Coun. Alberta Ostashek.

Earlier in the meeting, Carla Fox, director of corporate services, estimated there were about 15 to 20 other properties in mobile home parks that were behind in their tax payments. No others are currently inhabitable, she added.

A number of councilors spoke about the fact that a mobile home park is a business and there are certain costs associated with running that business.

Council agreed that they can push for responsibility and accountability on the owners part through a policy or bylaw.

“The fact that if you’re going to reap the benefits of doing business in our town, there needs to be some accountability and I think that if a policy was to exist it would require the owners to incur the cost of doing business and that means when things become delinquent, you have to clean up your mess and clear off your lot and get new units in. You can’t just leave them delinquent on your lots, that causes a safety concern,” said Coun. Ryan Maguhn.

An option Council discussed briefly was charging property tax for both the property and the homes situated in the parks to the park owners in order to hold them fully accountable.

“That’s the onus that needs to be put upon them as business owners in our community and I think it’s an obligation council has to our citizens too because, from my perspective, we spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with these types of requests from the mobile home parks, much more than with stand alone residences in our community,” Ostashek added.

Managers for Hillcrest and Parklane Mobile Home Park contacted Town Administration in August 2020 and requested a write-off of outstanding taxes and penalties owing on the two mobile homes within the Hillcrest Mobile Home Park.

An earlier demolition permit request for the derelict homes was denied due to outstanding taxation owing.

Coun. Dewly Nelson suggested approving a demolition permit but not writing off the taxes owed, but Fox explained that once the homes are gone there would be no incentive for the owners to pay the taxes as they are tied to the home.

Typically, any property that is three years outstanding on their taxes owing is put up for tax sale to try to recoup some of that revenue.

Mobile homes within a mobile park are hard to manage by the Municipality through the tax sale process, as in many cases the taxes owing are often similar to the value of the home, which makes the home undesirable for a purchaser.

All similar requests in the future for derelict mobile homes in the mobile park would be considered on a case by case basis.

Fox explained that if the mobile park owner can demolish the trailers, they can get a new home on the lot that will bring in tax revenue.

She added that this is an ongoing problem every year and is an issue seen across Canada.

Mayor Marcel Michaels questioned if the mobile home park was still collecting lot fees on the two properties, which would weigh into his decision to write off taxes or not.

While Fox couldn't give details, she said it was very unlikely the park was collecting any fees because the homes were abandoned.

Coun. Tyler Waugh agreed with Michaels, adding that for future decisions it would be important to know how long the park was receiving revenue for the pad rent and how long there weren’t collecting revenue.

Michaels stated he could support writing off the taxes if he knew that no money had been collected by the park since they stopped paying taxes, adding that this would be hard to justify to taxpayers otherwise.

Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice