How to Troubleshoot Abandoned and Empty Property Code Enforcement Problems : Code Enforcement Departments for County and Municipalities across the United States have been grappling with increasing workload problems caused by the growing number of vacant and abandoned properties due to the constant pursuit of foreclosures by mortgages (banks, lenders, and lien holders).
ForeclosureListings.com, asserts that “the national foreclosure rate in January 2010 was one foreclosure filing for every 466 US households; the most severe problems continue in the West and in Florida.
Unemployment, economic hardship, negative equity, and credit availability are driving foreclosures.” If property owners fail to pay their mortgage and are unable to meet any outstanding debts or carry unpaid mortgages and fines during the pre-foreclosure stage, they will inevitably be faced with having to leave their home.
In some cases, property owners whose mortgages have been canceled or are experiencing financial difficulties find themselves in a position where overspending may choose to simply walk away from their homes, no matter how difficult it is for them and their families. .
At a time when most jurisdictions, in particular, small local governments are also facing difficulties created by financial dilemmas and manpower and resource depletion, increasing foreclosures are impacting code enforcement departments tasked with trying to keep the environment and society from being corrupted, unsafe. , and its value depreciates.
The problems posed by the establishment of vacant residential properties, such as vandalism, unsafe open buildings, submerged swimming pools, just to name a few, incur huge costs as a community where it is tasked with securing and resolving these issues without any help from the owners. property or residents.
Oftentimes, property owners who are responsible for maintaining their homes during these difficult times find it unfair that they are still required to provide regular maintenance of their property or face code enforcement penalties while foreclosed homes abandoned next door are neglected and left to be torn down. . the value of their home and reduce its value. their environment.
According to a recent report from RealtyTrac, a company that monitors foreclosure trends in every state, “Florida recorded the second-highest state foreclosure rate in November 2009 with one in every 165 homes receiving a foreclosure application during the month.
Florida took the No. 2 spot. from California, which has the third highest foreclosure rate in the nation.” It is common for community members and leaders around the State of Florida to feel that mortgages are slow to take responsibility for these assets and begin to pressure local and local governments to deal with these properties, without using their tax dollars to do so.
Foreclosure Procedures in the State of Florida
There are several types of foreclosure procedures in the United States. According to Erate.com, “One common type of foreclosure is a ‘deed in lieu of foreclosure’ arrangement. Often called a ‘strict foreclosure’, banks claim ownership and repossession of property to meet debts.
The other most common type is a process known only as ‘foreclosure’ or ‘judicial foreclosure.’ Here property is auctioned off by a county or court official. The winning bidder receives a deed of property. Banks and other lenders usually bid on property for the amount owed, and if no other buyer comes forward, they will receive rights to the property.
Other states use another type of foreclosure, called ‘non-judicial’ or ‘legal’ foreclosure.In this case, when the borrower defaults, the lender may be given notice of default and an intention to sell.If the borrower does not settle the default by payment or otherwise, the property will be sold at a public auction.” In the State of Florida, foreclosure is handled as a judicial procedure that is processed through the court system.
This process can take a little, 5 months or more, starting with the lender advising the mortgage that they are in default and then recording the Lis Pendens notice. The homeowner will be presented with a notice of complaint, which essentially provides a notice of intent to foreclose and contains the total debt. The property owner has the opportunity to appear in court to address the complaint, however, if the court decides on the property owner, a foreclosure decision will be issued.
Once the verdict is entered, a warrant will be issued by the court authorizing the sheriff’s sale. Usually, if property owners remain in the house, they will be considered trespassing. If the property is sold through a judicial sale, a Certificate of Title will be issued to the new property owner or returned to the mortgagee.
Challenges for code compliance
Code enforcement officers typically have to deal with code violations on occupied properties where the occupant is unaware of the code requirements, is negligent, financially distressed, or may be violating code requirements on purpose, however, in the case of an abandoned or vacant home, this occupant has walked away or have been asked to vacate the property leaving maintenance of the property and infringement to another responsible party who controls the property which in most cases is the mortgage holder.
This is a difficult task because property owners are often required to vacate the premises before the property is sold or expropriated by the mortgagee through the completion of the foreclosure process so that ownership records do not change.
Code enforcement officers are now faced with code violations on vacant properties where tracking the party responsible for these properties is extremely difficult.
Even when the name of the mortgagee is found from research foreclosure documents, there will only be the name of a large corporate bank or financial institution and address that will not lead you directly to someone in charge of the property and will get lost in the maze.
With limited resources and increasing demands from community members, local governments began to adopt various vacant property registration programs that required pawnshops to be more involved with these foreclosure properties either from the time the property owner defaulted or when the property became vacant and abandoned. .
While some registration programs may consist solely of providing information such as the name of the responsible party and contact information, some programs require significant steps to be taken for vacant and abandoned properties including providing an electronic security system.
Local governments should take steps to strengthen local communities against the negative impacts of vacant and abandoned properties and obtain voluntary compliance with property maintenance and building code violations.
For example, in Broward County Florida, Building Code Inspectors and Code Compliance Officers respond to complaints and concerns regarding single-family homes, condominiums, townhouses, and flats that are vandalized, in severe disrepair, lack of maintenance, safety, hazardous conditions, and health concerns. and other security at this property.
Requiring mortgage owners and owners of vacant and abandoned properties to correct such violations presents a significant challenge to the Code Enforcement process.
In addition, when this property is abandoned and vacant for a long time, there may be unforeseen problems for the buyer of this property such as property maintenance issues, unfinished building permits, and lien assessment and/or code enforcement.
In response to recent events in the housing market that have led to a drastic increase in the number of foreclosed homes located in areas not affiliated with Broward County, the Abandoned/Vacant Property Registration and Certification regulations were created to protect unrelated residential neighborhoods from being tampered with. . with. through lack of adequate maintenance and security of abandoned and vacant properties.
This program is intended to deal with vacant and abandoned properties that are under the control of the mortgagee or beneficiary as a result of the borrower’s default and/or foreclosure process. This program also applies to property acquired by deed in lieu of foreclosure.
The program requires mortgage lenders to inspect failing properties to ensure that they are occupied. If a property is found vacant, the program requires lenders to apply a waiver clause in their mortgage contract, register the property with the County and immediately begin securing and maintaining the property according to program standards.
The regulation also requires local contracted property management companies to conduct bi-weekly inspections to verify compliance with regulatory requirements, if the property owner is a corporation, partnership, and/or out-of-state mortgage/owner.
The property must also include a name and 24-hour contact number for the property manager who can respond to concerns or concerns. The inspection and certification portion of the program offers buyers additional protection for foreclosed residential property in an unincorporated area of Broward County by requiring all rights holders to this property to be obtained through a Certificate of Rights (Foreclosure and Judgment), pursuant to Section 45, of the Statute. .
Florida or by deed in lieu of foreclosure/sale to obtain a Certificate of Foreclosure Inspection prior to offering property for sale, transfer, or other alienation. This requirement allows the conduct of cursory visual inspections of the property and inspection reports by code enforcement officers to provide disclosure of non-compliance with property maintenance codes, unresolved County liens and/or special assessments that encumber the property and also to identify existing building permits.
Steps taken to address foreclosure issues
As federal, state, and local governments look for ways to help distressed homeowners look after their homes or to help buyers and investors get foreclosed homes repaired, maintained, and occupied, banks also focus on addressing local issues. government in relation to matters relating to vacant and abandoned properties.
Mortgages can use their own staff or get the services of a company such as an asset manager or mortgage provider to handle the various functions and responsibilities associated with foreclosed properties ranging from pre foreclosure to preservation of property that is eventually sold or transferred. to the new owner.
The company employs a wide range of staff to handle broad areas such as property management, real estate and property rights services and has begun to place greater emphasis on property preservation and code compliance.
Companies employed by banks that utilize their services have recently focused their attention on regulatory requirements for properties under their management, at the same time, promoting partnerships with local jurisdictional code enforcement staff to help alleviate problems with properties under their management. empty and neglected and creates a better method of communication when issues are not addressed with property maintenance issues.
According to information provided on The Mortgage Bankers Association’s website, the organization is promoting the use of the MERS® Electronic Mortgage Registration System database to obtain property preservation contact lists to assist local jurisdictions in their efforts, particularly when it comes to securing the opening and custody of vacant properties.
Properties that continue to be abandoned, neglected, and unsecured for extended periods of time, which may include years, work against mortgages, as these conditions continue to force property values to continue to decline, repair costs increase due to vandalism and damage and liability for mortgages remains as squatters. and children have unsecured access within the residence.
For code enforcement to be truly proactive, it must take steps to prevent problems from solving them after the fact. While most jurisdictions charge a fee to register these properties, the fees are usually intended to offset the operating costs for programs that cover all the administrative work involved, as well as the increased field investigation work required by these vacant and abandoned properties.
The proactive nature of the program seeks responsible property preservation and service providers work to reduce mortgage costs as well as local jurisdictions. Fines and liens are placed on these properties due to daily walking penalties and fees for reduction work such as doing board-ups, reduction of stagnant pools, mowing lots, and litter, garbage disposal can run into the hundreds and even thousands.
Since many of these properties remain in the name of the previous owner until the property is transferred and the new owner is properly recorded in the county records, most jurisdictions are only required to quote the owner indicated on their tax assessor record or deed to address the issue. violation.
The property registration program has achieved many goals which include increased responsibility and accountability by mortgage lenders with respect to these assets, compliance with local property maintenance and building safety codes, and increased attention to making these properties reclaimable and appropriate action. higher against re-occupation.
The more properties that remain occupied and the less that is owned or abandoned by banks, the less need for this program of registration and regulation of vacant properties.
This article is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information regarding the subject matter covered. Written with the understanding that the author is not involved in providing legal or other professional services. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, competent professional services should be sought.