St. Louis Co. landlord owes six-figure tax bill, says she's good for community

Paula Dunlap, left, owns nearly fifty homes, but owes a six figure tax bill. (Credit: KMOV)

A St. Louis County landlord owns nearly fifty homes, but owes a six figure tax bill.

In some cases the taxes on properties owned by Paula Dunlap haven't been paid for 5 years.

News 4 began it's investigation into Dunlap after receiving a tip about the delinquent property taxes. The tip followed a News 4 Investigation in February about a California investor that owed more than a million dollars in unpaid taxes to St. Louis County.

At the time News 4 began its investigation into Dunlap-owned properties, she owed $125,205 in unpaid taxes to St. Louis County.

Dunlap admits she's behind and said, "what's the big deal we owe back taxes."

She says the rental market is challenging, and many of her tenants don't pay rent.

"It would be nice to get one to pay and stay," she said while giving a News 4 crew a tour of one her properties.

Dunlap also remarked, "If they can't pay rent guess what, St. Louis County is going to suffer until I get it."

In St. Louis County, real estate taxes benefit local school districts and fire districts among other services.

Dunlap said despite the unpaid bill, she's helping north St. Louis County by investing her money in neglected properties.

"Look at all the vacancies around us. We are fixing up to entice people to come back to the neighborhood," Dunlap said.

Dunlap was hauling drywall in the back of her pickup truck, and planned to fix up another property when News 4 spoke with her.

Inside two homes toured by News 4, Dunlap pointed out new counter tops, light fixtures, and fresh paint while new roofs and siding were displayed on the outside.

The landlord said she hopes to attract more tenants with Section 8 vouchers. Section 8 vouchers are rent payments funded with federal tax dollars and awarded by the St. Louis County Housing Authority.

According to the local housing authority, Dunlap received Section 8 payments totaling $65,798 over the past two years.

Dunlap also mentioned challenges with her Missouri St. Louis District (MSD) bill.

According to MSD, she owes approximately $42,000 in sewer bills on various properties.

Homes across St. Louis county are sold in the August tax sale after taxes haven't been paid for three years, but only if there's a willing buyer.

St. Louis County records show that some Dunlap properties have been delinquent for four years, and in two cases five years.

A Dunlap property located in the 5000 block of Helen Ave is $8,125 in the rears, but is currently uninhabitable.

The director of Housing and Economic Development for the city of Jennings told News 4 that Dunlap was asked to repair or demolish the property.

She cited an ongoing battle with the water company for the homes condition.

If Dunlap doesn't pay to demolish or repair the property on Helen Ave, the city will pay to demolish it then place a lien on the vacant property.

On Gillette Avenue in Jennings, News 4 met several of Dunlap tenants .

"It's been great. Every time I've ask her to fix something she's right on it." One man said, "I think I'm getting my money's worth."

A couple doors down a woman said that Dunlap was fine, friendly, thoughtful.

"no complaints...not yet. I'm only teasing," the woman said.

Dunlap says she treats her tenants well, and wants to give everyone who pays rent a nice place to live.

She also said she doesn't plan to lose her properties in the tax sale because they were paid for with her money.

Dunlap said she will eventually get caught up, but couldn't say when the tax bill would be paid in full.

Copyright 2018 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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