Vacant property in DC must be registered. DC’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) has a Vacant Building Enforcement Unit (VBE) whose task is to investigate and classify vacant and blighted buildings in the District.
The goal of the VBE is to bring buildings back to productive use. In order to achieve that mission, they classify buildings as vacant property, which raises property taxes for the owner. Class 3, vacant property, is taxed at a rate of $5 per $100 of assessed value, and Class 4, blighted property, is taxed at $10 per $100 of accessed value. On the other hand, Class 1, residential real property, is taxed at the much lower rate of $0.85 per $100, and Class 2 property, which includes commercial property such as hotels, is taxed at a rate of $1.65 per $100 for the first $3 million of assessed value and $1.85 per $100 for the remainder of the value.
DCRA receives complaints from citizens, Council Members, and District agencies regarding vacant buildings. If you notice a vacant property, you can report it to DCRA, who will inspect the property and determine its status. DCRA looks to see if the property appears vacant, has excessive vegetation and/or graffiti, and is open and accessible.
DCRA is also responsible for processing the vacant registration submitted by property owners. Owners who do not report vacant property may be fined $2,000 per violation and are subject to up to 90 days imprisonment. Only vacant buildings are subject to registration, not vacant lots. In general, you must register your property if it is unoccupied unless it is under active construction, you are actively seeking to rent or sell the building, the building is the subject of a probate proceeding, or you have a pending application for development. Otherwise, you must register within 30 days of vacancy by completing the Vacant Building Response Form with a $250 registration fee.
There are some exceptions that allow an improved vacant property to be eligible for the lower Class 1 or Class 2 tax rate for a single fiscal year. DCRA sets the guidelines for these exceptions and then reports the new status to the Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR).
Follow the law and avoid fines by registering your vacant property in DC.