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Liens for Slum Clearance and Clean Up

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Reviewed Date: December 20, 2016

Original Author: 
Hemsley, Sid
Date of Material: 
Jul 24, 1991

Code enforcement--Building demolition
Liens on property

Liens for Slum Clearance and Clean Up

MTAS was asked whether a municipality has to file a lien for slum clearance and clean up.

Knowledgebase-Liens for Slum Clearance and Clean Up July 24, 1991

I am still gathering information about the kind of time frame municipalities use under the slum clearance ordinance authorized by Tennessee Code Annotated, title 13, ch. 21. I will have the results of that work for you shortly.

However, with respect to the lien notice you requested, I discovered a day or so after you called (July 18) that the legislature had changed the law governing the lien again. Now, under Public Acts 1991, Chapter 515 a municipality does not even have to file a lien. A copy of that act is enclosed. Apparently all a municipality has to do is submit the bill for the clean up to the trustee or the municipal tax collector.

It is still not clear to me what happens if the property owner refuses to pay the bill. Under Tennessee Code Annotated, section 67-5-2101, property tax is a first lien upon property. I do not think the clean-up bill stands in the same place. At least one city has had the experience of the property owner so heavily leveraging the property subject to a clean-up order that it stands no chance of recovering the cost of the clean up if and when the property is sold. I have discussed that city's problem with the TML's legislative liaison, and the city itself is doing the same thing relative to the prospect of making the cost of the clean-up a lien either equal in dignity to the property tax lien or at least superior to any lien arising after the slum clearance process is begun under Tennessee Code Annotated, title 13, chapter 21.

Also enclosed are the two cases you requested: Thomas v. Chamberlain, 143 F. Supp. 671 (1955) and Star v. Nash, 145 F. Supp 498 (1956).

If I can help you further in this or any other matter, please let me know.


Sidney D. Hemsley
Senior Law Consultant

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