Dickinson County has procedures in place that allow it to recoup costs if the county has to cleanup a private property destroyed by fire, explosion or windstorm.

The county, through state statute, also has a policy that allows tax relief for property owners in the event their homes and/or buildings are damaged or destroyed by fire, tornadoes, storms, flood or earthquakes.

Insurance proceeds liens

Recently, the insurance company of a property owner whose home was destroyed by fire contacted Dickinson County Administrator Brad Homman, asking about the county’s insurance lien procedure.

When a property owner files an insurance claim for property loss due to fire, explosion or windstorm, a statutory lien is created on the insurance proceeds that ensures the county has the money to pay for cleanup if the homeowner walks away.

In December 2013, the county approved a resolution that requires insurance companies paying out more than 75 percent of the face value of a policy covering the building or structure to hold back 15 percent of the proceeds to be held in escrow pending cleanup of the property.

Once the property is cleaned up satisfactorily, the lien is released and the funds are returned to the property owner. However, if that does not happen, the county can recoup its costs.

“The purpose of the resolution gives the county some money if we have to go in and clean it up,” Homman explained. “It’s worked well for us several times and it worked extremely well for the City of Chapman in 2008.”

The City of Chapman had a lien procedure in effect when the 2008 tornado destroyed a big part of the city. Afterwards, several property owners decided not to rebuild for various reasons.

“Some properties weren’t worth rebuilding,” Homman said. “They were in the flood plain and the property owners walked away from them.”

Homman said he explained the county’s procedure to the property owner whose home recently was destroyed by fire. He also told the individual about the county’s tax relief statute available for residents who no longer have use of their property due to fire or other causes.

“He was not aware that even though we’re holding back 15 percent of his property, he could get his taxes abated for a year because his house was a total loss,” he said.

Real property disaster relief

Kansas state statute allows real property relief for taxpayers whose property was partially or fully destroyed by disasters including earthquake, fire, flood, storm or tornado.

Since the home or structure cannot be used, the taxpayer may apply for a property tax abatement – full or partial – against property taxes payable. The decision whether or not to allow the abatement is made by the county commissioners.

Dickinson County Appraiser Lisa Berg said applicants need to fill out a form that includes a written estimate of repairs or rebuilding costs from a licensed contractor or construction engineer (unless it’s totally destroyed), a deed of ownership (available at the Register of Deeds office), a copy of the contract if buying on contract or title of manufactured home.

“Along with photos documenting the damage or destruction,” Berg said.

Any affected owner wishing to apply for disaster relief can contact Berg’s office at (785) 263-4418 or County Administrator Homman at (785) 263-3120.

 

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