Vacant Property Registration
On June 13, 2022, the City Council of Council Bluffs passed Ordinance 6492 enacting a new Chapter 17.15 “Vacant Property Registration” within city code.
According to the ordinance, the purpose of this chapter is to protect the public health, safety and welfare of Council Bluffs citizens by requiring the registration of all vacant property and the payment of an annual registration fee in order to monitor, inspect and record the condition of vacant property. Further, this chapter serves to preserve property and reduce fire and life safety hazards and unlawful activities such as vandalism and temporary occupancy by transients.
For the purposes of this registry, vacant property is defined as a one or two-family residential dwelling that is unoccupied as a dwelling or that is illegally occupied, more specifically described in Ordinance 6492.
To register vacant property in Council Bluffs, please complete the following form:
More details can be viewed on the Registration Process tab.
- The owner shall be responsible for maintaining the property in compliance with all applicable provisions of the Council Bluffs Municipal Code.
- Adherence to this section does not relieve the owner of any obligations set forth in any covenants, conditions and restrictions and/or homeowners' association rules and regulations which may apply to the property.
- The owner or beneficiary of a deed of trust or the holder of a certificate of purchase or a certificate of redemption or their agents and employees may legally enter upon the property to fulfill the maintenance and security obligations imposed by this Chapter.
- Properties subject to this Chapter shall be maintained in a secure manner so as not to be accessible to unauthorized persons. Secure manner includes but is not limited to the closure and locking of windows, doors, garage doors, cellar doors, gates and any other opening of such size that it may allow a child to access the interior of the property and or structure(s).
- In the case of broken windows, doors, entryways, garage doors or cellar doors, adequate materials such as plywood shall be used to secure the property from unwanted entry. Such materials shall be painted black, white or color matched to the aesthetics of the property and the general aesthetic theme of the neighborhood.
- The person or entity responsible for maintenance shall inspect the property monthly to determine if the property is in compliance with the requirements of this Section.
In the event the owner does not secure the property as required under the Maintenance/Security Requirements listed above, the City shall determine the property to be vacant, and shall proceed with securing the property, in accordance with the provision of this Chapter. Any costs incurred by the City during this process shall be paid by the owner prior to the City removing the vacant property designation.
At the discretion of the city attorney, any violation of the provisions of this chapter may be pursued as a municipal infraction according to the terms of CBMC 1.95.
For questions pertaining to the City of Council Bluffs' new vacant property registry, please refer to the FAQ tab or contact Community Development at [email protected] or (712) 890-5350.
To register vacant property in Council Bluffs, please complete the following form:
The current registration fee is $300 per year per vacant property as set forth in CBMC 2.08, Schedule of Fees. Annual registration is required. Renewals are due 12 months from the date of your previous registration.
Once your registration form has been submitted, you will receive an invoice for the registration fee which will be due within 10 days of receipt if applicable.
Certain properties that meet exemption criteria can allow for registration without paying a fee. The vacant property registration fee shall be waived, for:
- All dwelling units that possess a valid rental license issued pursuant to this chapter that is actively marketed as "for rent" in a newspaper or in an online listing at a fair market value rental rate based upon market rental rates for comparable properties. It is the obligation of the vacant property owner to produce evidence of active marketing to claim this exemption. In the event that the rental license lapses, is suspended, or revoked, this exemption shall no longer apply, the vacant property in question shall be subject to the registration fees provided for above and shall immediately be due and owing.
- All homes being actively marketed as "for sale" at a price not lower than the assessed value as listed by the Pottawattamie County Assessor’s Office.
- Vacant property for which the owner possesses a valid building permit for remodeling the dwelling located thereon, so long as actual remodeling, repair or construction remains continuous and apparent.
- Vacant properties subject to a valid development agreement or redevelopment agreement with the City.
- Single vacant properties for which the owner executes a valid affidavit on a form provided by the city stating that the owner intends to resume occupancy of the vacant property as a dwelling within 120 days; provided, however, that failure to actually resume use of the vacant property as a dwelling within 120 days will result in imposition of the waived registration fee.
- Vacant property for which the registration fee has already been paid for the current calendar year.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why did you create the new Vacant Property Registration?
The Vacant Property Registration ordinance was approved by City Council on June 13, 2022 and revised on October 24, 2022. It is intended to protect the integrity of the neighborhoods where vacant properties exist and to hold property owners accountable for any failure to maintain their vacant properties.
According to the Federal Office of Policy Development and Research in the article "Vacant and Abandoned Properties: Turning Liabilities Into Assets," vacant and abandoned properties are linked to increased rates of crime (particularly arson) and declining property values. In addition, vacant and abandoned properties have negative spillover effects that impact neighboring properties and, when concentrated, entire communities and even cities. Research links foreclosed, vacant, and abandoned properties with reduced property values, increased crime, increased risk to public health and welfare, and increased costs for municipal governments.
What benefit do I get by registering my vacant property?
This property registration is intended to create an up-to-date list of vacant dwellings for our police and fire personnel who most often contend with the dangerous situations manifested in vacant buildings. Public safety personnel will utilize the vacant property list in order to quickly find contact information for vacant property owners or managers if necessary.
In general, vacant property registries encourage property owners adjacent and near to abandoned and foreclosed homes and buildings to repair, maintain and upgrade their properties with the confidence that neighborhood blight will not diminish the value of their own homes. This combined action helps stabilize surrounding property values and assists neighborhoods in fighting blight.
Why did I receive notice that I need to register my property?
You may have received a letter notifying you of the requirement to register your vacant property. The city may suspect that your property is vacant for any of the following reasons (not all inclusive):
- Discontinuance of city trash removal and/or water service
- Designation of the property as uninhabitable for human occupancy by the Chief Building Official
- The presence of vermin, accumulation of debris, and uncut vegetation
- The building is exposed to the elements such that deterioration of the building is occurring
Upon receipt of the notice determining the property as vacant, the owner is responsible for the registration of the property in accordance with the registration requirements, including payment of the appropriate fees, as required under the Vacant Property Registration Ordinance.
Why do I have to pay a fee to register my vacant property?
The registration fee is to cover the cost of the vacant property program including the cost of the City registering and inspecting vacant properties.
Do I need to register my vacant commercial properties?
Vacant commercial properties do not need to be registered at this time.
How do I submit an appeal?
Per Municipal Code Section 17.15.130, any aggrieved party who believes the alleged violation or penalty imposed pursuant to this Chapter is unfounded, incorrect or inappropriate may appeal the issue to the Building Board of Appeals. Such appeal shall be in writing and shall state with specificity the grounds for the appeal. The appeal shall be filed within fourteen (14) days of receipt of the notice of violation by the aggrieved party. The Board shall hold a hearing within thirty (30) days of receipt by the Board of the appeal. The appellant may waive the hearing and request the Board to decide the matter on the City’s records and the written documents submitted by the appellant, this too shall be accomplished within thirty (30) days of receipt by the Board. Within 14 days of the hearing or its review of the records and documents the Board shall make a recommendation of finding which will be presented to the Mayor in writing for a final administrative decision. The Mayor will make the decision to either approve, reject or modify the recommendation of the Board within fourteen (14) days of receipt of the Board’s recommendation.
To whom may I submit additional questions?
For all other questions, contact Community Development at [email protected] or (712) 890-5350.