The price of murals

July 29, 2014

A Brussels-based home owner has recently been forced to pay higher property tax because of a mural on his building. The plight of a Brusseler is the topic of heated debate in the Belgian capital this month. Flanders News reports that the owner of the building has been informed that his property tax has gone up because of the strip cartoon mural that embellishes one of the outside walls of his property. Because of this mural his property apparently has gone up in value and the municipal authorities argue that they have the rights to charge a higher property tax.

Street Art
The arguable mural in Brussels

The Value of a Building Containing a Mural

This is not a case of who owns the mural. This is about the value of a building containing a mural. Once a painting is fixed on the wall the rights to the work itself pass to the owner of the wall. Owner could cut out the wall and sell it or lend it. He can do whatever he wants with the wall but not with the design. The ownership of the copyright stays with the author unless he or she transfers it to someone. Likewise, once a mural is painted on the building surface, the value of a building will increase with at least the value of the commissioned mural. Defining the cost of a mural is another issue that depends on a number of factors. For example, size, location, technique, to name a few. But once the owner approves painting, he or she doesn’t expect to bear the consequences more than what was agreed, for example, an agreement not to do anything with the wall containing the mural for some time. This argument is exactly what the defense said in favor of the Brussels-based owner. "This person has given a commitment not to do anything about the mural for ten years. He can't add a window… He's being punished when he should be rewarded on account of the positive co-operation," Flanders News reports. The owners of painted buildings would be in an even bigger problem if the murals on their walls were defined as a public good. Preservation laws, however, don't apply to newer works of art yet but that does not mean it will not happen in the near future.

Street Art
Avoid - Do I Have a Voice

The Rights and Obligations

All in all, regulating the rights and obligations in the case of painting both private and public buildings is an ongoing process. As things currently stand, the building owners who have given permission to artists to paint a mural on their walls benefit because it increases the value of their property. Should the local government benefit too? That’s an interesting question that will surely stimulate more than debate. One of the most significant and most common causes of property tax increases is a rise in the value of a property due to home improvements. Adding a mural to your home is apparently considered as an improvement that increases the value of your property. The time has come to understand that murals also influence the increase in the value of buildings. A higher property value means a higher tax bill. Understanding what causes property taxes to rise may urge you to think twice before you sign a contract with the artists or at least help you anticipate your future payments. The case of an unfortunate Brusseler, however, is still under review. The city cabinet of the City of Brussels said it wasn't aware of the matter of constraints on which the owner agreed and has promised to examine it.