Ferguson Launches New Law Targeting Unpaid Property Taxes on Commercial Properties

Ferguson Passes Legislation Revoking Business Licenses for Unpaid Taxes

On Tuesday, Ferguson lawmakers passed a new law aimed at collecting delinquent property taxes from commercial property owners. The City Council voted 6-1 to approve a bill that allows the city to deny business license renewals for unpaid property taxes. This applies even if the business owner is just renting space and the landlord owes the back taxes.

The ordinance gives businesses whose landlords are late on taxes a “provisional” license for nine months. If property taxes remain unpaid, the city’s director of finance would hold a hearing with the business and the property owner to decide whether to extend the business’ provisional license.

This new Ferguson ordinance stands out among municipalities in St. Louis County because they generally do not actively pursue delinquent property taxes. According to state law, county governments must auction off properties within three years after they become delinquent. However, this new law targets commercial property owners by denying them their business license renewals if they fail to pay their property taxes on time.

Resident Alan Mueller, a retired architect, criticized the bill as “cruel and unjust.” He expressed concerns that it could lead to lawsuits from businesses that lose their license due to their landlord’s failure to pay taxes. Mueller suggested that it would be easier for those affected to sue the city for direct damages instead of going through a lengthy legal process with their landlords.

Council members voted without discussion after amending the bill to include a nine-month grace period in response to concerns from business leaders. The lone vote against the bill came from Councilwoman Naquittia Noah. Ferguson Councilman Nick Kasoff, who sponsored the bill, argued that most delinquent commercial properties were owner-occupied, making it unfair for them to profit from their tenants while not paying their own taxes on time.

Overall, this new law is unique among municipalities in St. Louis County as they generally do not actively pursue delinquent property taxes through targeting commercial properties’ ability to make money by denying them their licenses if they fail to pay on time.

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