VALLEJO LAMPLIGHTER TO ADVOCATE FOR VACANT PROPERTY REGISTRATION PROGRAM

The high rate of foreclosures in Vallejo has created a glut of empty properties that in too many cases have become magnets for crime or blighted eyesores, dragging down property values.

Vallejo Lamplighters intends to advocate for a city ordinance like that adopted in Broward County, Florida, which faced a similar onslaught of code enforcement problems caused by vacant foreclosed properties. (To read an article about Broward County’s experience, go here:
http://ezinearticles.com/?Foreclosures—How-Code-Enforcement-Tackles-the-Problem-of-Abandoned-and-Vacant-
Properties&id=3922284 )

The property registration program would accomplish several goals:

  • increased responsibility and accountability by the mortgagees for the properties they control;
  • adherence to local property maintenance and safety building codes;
  • increased attention toward making these properties viable again for ownership and/or re-occupancy.

The program would target those vacant properties that have come under the control of a mortgagee or beneficiary as a result of the foreclosure process. The program would also apply to properties that were obtained due to borrower default by transfer of the property without formal foreclosure. (Although we do not plan to target rental properties at this time, this is worthy of consideration and possible future action.)

The proposed registration program would require mortgage lenders to inspect defaulted properties to confirm that they are occupied. If a property is found to be vacant, the program would require that the lender exercise the abandonment clause within their mortgage contract, register the property with the city, and immediately begin to secure and maintain the property to program standards.

If the owner of the property is a corporation, partnership, and/or out of area mortgagee/owner, the ordinance would also require that a local property management company be contracted to perform bi-weekly inspections to verify compliance with the requirements of the ordinance.

The property would also have to post with the city the name and 24-hour contact number for the property manager who can respond to problems or concerns.

The inspections and certification portion of this program would offer added protection for buyers of foreclosed residential properties by requiring all title holders of these properties to obtain a Certificate of Foreclosure Inspection prior to offering the property for sale, transfer, or other alienation. This requirement would allow for the performance of a visual inspection of the property and an inspection report by a code enforcement officer to provide disclosure of any non-compliance with property maintenance codes, outstanding county liens and/or special assessments encumbering the property, and also to identify any outstanding building permits.

Mortgagees themselves suffer when properties continue to be abandoned, neglected, and unsecured for an extended period of time. Property values continue to decline, costs increase due to repairs for vandalism and deterioration, and the risk of liability is high due to the possibility of squatters and children gaining access to unsecured residences.

In order for code enforcement to be truly proactive, it must take steps to prevent problems not address them after the fact. Most jurisdictions charge a fee for registering these properties. The fees are intended to offset the operating costs for the program—which include all administrative work and the increased field investigations that the vacant and abandoned properties require.

The proactive nature of these programs works to reduce the costs for the mortgagees as well as the local jurisdiction. Fines and liens that are placed on these properties due to daily running penalties and costs for abatement work—such as performing board-ups, stagnant pool abatement, lot mowing, and trash removal—may reach in the hundreds and even thousands of dollars. To be effective, the costs of violation must exceed the foreseeable costs of allowing the property to become abandoned.

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