Last of three parts
A real estate agent who deals extensively with Kootenay Lake properties says the stigma associated with Johnsons Landing due to a deadly 2012 landslide isn’t just theoretical — nor is it likely to go away anytime soon.
“As you can imagine [the area] pretty much has a big black mark over it,” said Coldwell Banker realtor David Blishen (pictured below), who works out of Kaslo. “Because of that slide, I imagine it’s going to be years before anyone builds up any sort of confidence.”
Johnsons Landing properties have seen their assessed values slashed 25 to 50 per cent even if they weren’t directly affected by the slide, while properties within one or more hazard zones have been reduced even further.
Blishen says even before the disaster, the real estate market in the area was slow, and the slide hasn’t helped.
Prospective buyers from Saskatchewan and Ontario looking at properties around Kaslo pulled out immediately, and last year when Blishen fielded inquiries from those unfamiliar with the area, “almost their second question was ‘Do I have to drive through Johnsons Landing to get there?’ They weren’t familiar with Kaslo, but they knew about Johnsons Landing.”
The other line he gets is “I don’t want anything on a creek on a hillside.”
What’s more, Blishen says clients with properties in Argenta, well away from the slide, face difficulties as a result of being on Argenta-Johnsons Landing Road.
“It’s really getting over that initial hurdle with people who don’t have knowledge of the area and are looking at it for the first time,” he says. “They’re a little hesitant until they speak to someone who can tell them where Argenta is.”
But people shopping online may look at the address and pass without bothering to make the distinction, he adds.
Although he isn’t aware of anyone who has actually listed a Johnsons Landing property for sale since the slide, Blishen says a few have inquired about it. And while he wouldn‘t refuse to take on such a property depending on the circumstances, even prior to the slide, the area’s isolation and narrow road scared some people off.
“I would give it a try if it was reasonable, but if you’re in that zone, it’s going to be a hard road getting over that stigma.”
He speculated, however, that some properties might change hands locally. “In the short term, people familiar with the geography may buy in some private sales, and over time more confidence will build up. Time will help as long as no more [debris] comes down.”
Regional District of Central Kootenay administrator Brian Carruthers said nothing stops a property in the evacuation zone from changing hands, although it would be very difficult to acquire a building permit while the restrictions remain in place.
Complex road to property forfeiture
While it has provided financial compensation to property owners hardest hit by the Johnsons Landing slide, the provincial government says no mechanism exists to buy out an entire neighbourhood affected by disaster.
But if someone whose property was rendered practically worthless refused to pay their taxes, would it default to the crown?
It’s possible, according to the Ministry of Finance, but would be preceded by a complicated collection process that could take three years or more.
Unpaid rural taxes become delinquent after December 31 and collection action may include notifying Canada Revenue Agency, registering liens, garnishing wages, issuing demand notices to banks, seizing personal belongings, and finally, forfeiture. Monthly interest also accrues at prime plus three per cent.
If the balance is still outstanding after two years, a forfeiture notice is issued and a $75 fee added. Owners have until December 1 of the third year to square up before the property is actually forfeited, after which they still have a year to redeem the property title by covering the unpaid balance, plus a $250 fee, and any costs incurred by the crown.
Failing that, the former owner then has a two-year revestiture period to reacquire title. If approved by the surveyor of taxes, it costs $500 in addition to the taxes, penalties, and interest owing.
During this time, the province doesn’t actively market forfeited lands, but afterward it may sell them — although unlike municipalities, it does not hold an annual auction of delinquent properties. A property in the Johnsons Landing slide path would almost certainly lay dormant.
Rural property forfeitures in BC are rare.