Code Compliance Nuisance Properties Overwhelm Cities and Towns

COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary COMBO Title and Securitization Search, Report, Documents, Analysis & Commentary

Editor’s Comment: Just like the bogus foreclosures that preceded them, the banks say they own the REO property they acquired with an illegal credit bid but they don’t want to REALLY own it and be responsible for code compliance utility bills and all that fun stuff that goes with REALLY owning a home.

>Gwinnett County News 9:09 a.m. Sunday, November 28, 2010

In Lawrenceville, focus turns to local eyesores

By Shane Blatt

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Mary Thompson of Lawrenceville has an unusual Monday morning routine. After she drops off her daughter at school, the 49-year-old resident searches city neighborhoods for properties that she believes tarnish the town’s image.

"If I can see it from a car, so can everybody else," Thompson says of her "Eyesore of the Week" page on Facebook highlighting neglected properties.

Bita Honarvar, bhonarvar@ajc.com “If I can see it from a car, so can everybody else,” Thompson says of her “Eyesore of the Week” page on Facebook highlighting neglected properties.

Mary Thompson takes a photo of a discarded sofa outside a residence on Buford Drive in Lawrenceville. She posts images of badly neglected properties online to spur city officials to act.

Bita Honarvar, bhonarvar@ajc.com Mary Thompson takes a photo of a discarded sofa outside a residence on Buford Drive in Lawrenceville. She posts images of badly neglected properties online to spur city officials to act.

Within minutes, she spots and photographs homes with overgrown grass, boarded-up windows or broken fences. She loads those images onto her “Eyesore of the Week” page on Facebook.

“It’s to reinforce the fact that if I can see it from a car, so can everybody else,” Thompson said. “This affects our property values and the perception of the city as a whole.”

Hundreds of so-called nuisance properties can be found across metro Atlanta, and Lawrenceville, a Gwinnett County city of 30,000, is a microcosm of the problem. As of Nov. 4, Lawrenceville had 113 nuisance properties — those where code enforcement staff have had trouble tracking down owners to cut foot-high grass, remove cars from yards or fix dilapidated stairways and porches.

The problem varies elsewhere in metro Atlanta. While Norcross, Duluth and College Park each have fewer than 10 nuisance properties that code enforcers are actively working on, Sandy Springs counts between 100 and 120, and Atlanta numbers above 450.

“It’s a beast, I won’t lie to you,” said Lt. Tim Wallis, Lawrenceville Police Department special operations commander. “Quality of life issues take up most of my time.”

Lawrenceville leaders said the problem stems mostly from the rise of tenant-occupied and foreclosed properties citywide. Foreclosure cases have proved to be the most difficult.

With owners walking away from homes, banks going under and mortgages changing hands multiple times, city officials said no one wants to take responsibility for a property’s upkeep. And that’s assuming a responsible party can be found, Wallis said.

“Even for law firms, it’s difficult to find the group responsible for that house at the moment,” City Council member Marie Beiser said. “You can get something straightened out this week, and then the next week someone is parked on the grass.”

In Norcross, code enforcers examine tax records, search for forwarding addresses on utility bills and even contact neighbors to track down the owners of dilapidated homes.

“You start with the obvious and you get creative,” said Philomena Robertson, Norcross’ code enforcement supervisor. “If there’s a cleaning company, I’ll ask, ‘Who hired you?’ We had a house that caught on fire and no one could locate the owner. I had heard the new owner’s name, so I Googled him and found him in California. He didn’t know how the house caught on fire.”

Given the difficulty of bringing some properties into compliance, East Point Mayor Earnestine Pittman said she enlists neighbors in the cleanup cause.

“We are asking residents if you live next door to one, for your own safety and health just cut the grass next door,” Pittman said.

Atlanta’s Office of Code Compliance has dealt with 459 nuisance properties over the past 30 days. The city has had success in property cleanup by working with the city’s Solicitor’s Office and the Atlanta Police Department to conduct sweeps of communities with the most egregious violations, director Kevin Bean said.

“We not only go after private property owners but also corporations and bank officers listed as owners,” Bean said in an e-mail.

In Lawrenceville, the issue of nuisance properties was highlighted in the Nov. 2 City Council elections. Before the election, groups such as the Lawrenceville Neighborhood Alliance held incumbents, particularly Mayor Rex Millsaps, responsible for the state of the city’s neighborhoods.

In subdivision after subdivision, residents complained of weeds growing up to 5 feet, appliances scattered in lawns and graffiti painted on the sides of garages. They argued city officials have been slow to act, with some properties lingering as nuisances for up to three years.

“The wheels turn very slowly,” said 22-year resident David Jones, a member of the Lawrenceville Neighborhood Alliance. “In this growing city, it can go from being okay one day to deteriorate severely in a month. What we want as the LNA is action taken by the city to bring these properties into compliance.”

That’s not a simple feat, city officials said. They maintain that nuisance properties often go in and out of foreclosure and, occasionally, in and out of the court system.

“One of the downfalls of this system is the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing,” Wallis said. “Once a citation is written, it’s out of our hands and in the hands of the judicial system.”

Without a court order, state law prevents city workers from using taxpayer dollars to fix up private property.

A Dogwood Lane property has been uninhabitable for several years after a fire scorched the home. Vickie Maddox, who has lived next door for five years, said the property, with its boarded-up windows and “No trespassing” signs, is a breeding ground for crime. She said vagrants have tried to break into the home to sleep.

“Sometimes when it rains, you get odors — like rotten sewage,” Maddox said.

To stem the rash of problems, the city mailed brochures of its property maintenance ordinance to homeowners with their utility bills. In addition, Lawrenceville now allows residents to report nuisance properties anonymously. Beiser said the city gets about 80-percent compliance once a notice is issued.

Newly elected Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson has pledged to make neighborhood revitalization one of her top responsibilities after she takes office in January.

That’s good news to residents like Thompson, whose “Eyesore of the Week” page has been up for two months.

“I just think the city needs to make [neighborhoods] more of a priority,” Thompson said.

6 Responses

  1. Can i share something ?
    If your are having trouble with quality control audits, consulting services and many other compliance services, mortgage or loans I know a site that may help you with those problem. You will received accurate and helpful advice.

  2. This post makes it very clear that everyone is affected by the mortgage/loan crisis. If you have a good mortgage, or your home is paid off, it will still affect you. On top of that, we even have some homes going to foreclosure that have been paid for. The counties have not received their fees which also affects everyone. I hope Wikileaks releases the bank files sooner than later.
    http://www.challengingforeclosure.com Sirak@challengingforeclosure.com

  3. http://foreclosureblues.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/ag-eric-holder-admits-theres-a-criminal-investigation-of-wall-street-happening-right-now/

    Someone from the government finally admitted that they’re launching a criminal investigation of trading on Wall Street.

    The Attorney General, Eric Holder, said, “I don’t want to get into the details,” but an “investigation is ongoing” and it is “very serious.”

    Up until now the FBI has been raiding some hedge funds and subpoenaing information from others, but keeping even the existence of the investigation “off the record.”

    For now, most of the details will stay off the record. According to the AP, Holder wouldn’t say whether the investigation involves hedge funds and insider trading.

    But at least someone’s admitting there is an investigation, and confirming for us who’s behind it. The investigation is being brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in New York, says Holder.

    And you know what this (probably) means: someone on Wall Street is going to be arrested soon.

  4. http://foreclosureblues.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/wikileaks-next-target-a-big-us-bank/

    Wikileaks Next Target: “A Big US Bank”
    Today, November 29, 2010, 15 minutes ago | Tyler DurdenGo to full article

    Honest distributor of leaked data or a clever PsyOps front, one can not deny that whatever it is, Wikileaks does share some unique information with the world (as to how it is interpreted is a different story). Yet for the most part, the bulk of the organization’s recent exposures have focused on the US military and away from the private sector, and thus away from that which is really important in today’s world: money (of a paper representation thereof). Which is we read with interest in the latest Julian Assange interview with Forbes’ Andy Greenberg that next on the docket of Wikileaks disclosure is not some facebooky look into the gossip world of international espionage or the foreign service, but something far more tangible and relevant: “A Big US Bank.”

    From the interview:

    These megaleaks, as you call them that, we haven’t seen any of those from the private sector.

    No, not at the same scale for the military.

    Will we?

    Yes. We have one related to a bank coming up, that’s a megaleak. It’s not as big a scale as the Iraq material, but it’s either tens or hundreds of thousands of documents depending on how you define it.

    Is it a U.S. bank?

    Yes, it’s a U.S. bank.

    One that still exists?
    Yes, a big U.S. bank.

    The biggest U.S. bank?

    No comment.

    When will it happen?

    Early next year. I won’t say more.

    One needs to ask whether this is what we need: after all the US public already has enough public data to convict the executives of all the banks for numerous consecutive life sentences as is. It almost seems that nothing short of photographic evidence of some very (in)famous bank CEOs have underage sex while filming snuff movies, dressed in drag, killing puppies and recording their market manipulation conversations with Brian Sack will even rattle the Ripn van Winkle formerly known as Eric Holder. But then again, we can hope…

    As for Assange’s reason for coming to public with the bank exposition:

    What do you want to be the result of this release?

    [Pauses] I’m not sure.

    It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume. Usually when you get leaks at this level, it’s about one particular case or one particular violation.

    For this, there’s only one similar example. It’s like the Enron emails. Why were these so valuable? When Enron collapsed, through court processes, thousands and thousands of emails came out that were internal, and it provided a window into how the whole company was managed. It was all the little decisions that supported the flagrant violations.

    This will be like that. Yes, there will be some flagrant violations, unethical practices that will be revealed, but it will also be all the supporting decision-making structures and the internal executive ethos that cames out, and that’s tremendously valuable. Like the Iraq War Logs, yes there were mass casualty incidents that were very newsworthy, but the great value is seeing the full spectrum of the war.

    You could call it the ecosystem of corruption. But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest. But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest. The way they talk about it.

    While we refuse to pass judgment on Assange’s character, and his motivations, it appears that he may have finally figured out that to enact change in a country, you have to go not after the politicians or even the military industrial complex. After all both of those are puppets for the moneyed interests. One has to go after the very heart of the financial oligarchy. Money always has made the world go round, never more so than in the US currently. Perhaps Assange can redeem himself of all attacks on his persona if he does succeed in disclosing something that is beyond mere watercooler talk and actually leads to at least one major prosecution. After all, the US’ own regulatory and enforcement mechanisms are corrupt beyond repair, and completely unable to do so on their own…

  5. Well, this is just another ridiculous ploy by the loan servicers to maintain the properties at the taxpayers expense. If the servicer spends their money to maintain (which is what their contract and the PSA requires), it will make them cash poor in that particular area. And the trustee or owner of the note is not real quick about reimbursing the servicer for those certain expenses.

    1. If the property is vacant, the servicer must acknowledge that it has been through a drive by inspection. Then they can go on the property to maintain it., but they won’t because they don’t want to use their money. If the property has been foreclosed then they must do what is required to maintain it and that means again, spending their money. The responsible party is going to be the servicer of the mortgage if there is one or if privately owned, the owner is the responsible party. The Deed of trust or mortgage specifically addresses how maintenance of the properties is to be handled and all mortgages are recorded so it is no big deal to find out who it is. Now you know why so many servicers do not record the Assignment of Transfer of Servicing Rights. It is just one of the reasons that they don’t because they may not get around to the maintenance bit until they or their bank account allows it. Just a thought mind you, but it fits.

    There are provisions in the PSA agreements as well as the Mortgage Loan Purchase Agreement which stipulate that, the servicer must maintain the property on behalf of the owner, the certificate holders. So a whole of violations must be happening. Wonder why no one has filed with the SEC that these violations are taking place on the securitized loans or at least one of the other regulatory, not perhaps that it will do any good but it might help to scare them enough to do a better job.. Now, in some cases the owner of the note may not want to spend the money with the hope that the towns and cities will be so frustrated that they find ways to maintain the property and therefore, saves the note owner and the servicer the money. And 100’s of towns and communities have done just that. Believe me, when the stimulus money went out to towns and cities to purchase abandoned and foreclosed properties, a lot of the money was used to pay for work that the servicer and note holder should have done. I wish I could see the general ledger of the lender who sold the properties to non profits so they could resell to the community, just exactly what the lender got. I am willing to bet you it was a lot more that 75 cents on the dollar. I think that might be the Geithner way, I can’t be sure. Another way, if you will, for the government to funnel money to the banks. 3.92 billion went to Twin Cities so they could purchase and rehab bank properties. I have to tell you, that much money would have kept everyone of those people in their homes for 3 to 5 years without foreclosing and causing property values to sink. The money as I have mentioned before is being spent in the wrong places. The mayor, the governor, all of them should have known better. Just look at the salaries of those working for the non profits and the real estate commissions that are being paid out, all because the servicers and note owners are not taking care of their properties. The lenders had their own Asset REaltors that they dealt with but no they wanted those homes sold so they gave the money to non profits to buy them. It is almost laughable that we have been made such fools of as taxpayers. The people who needed the help got nada, nothing thanks to the 75 B Obama gave them. And he was a community organizer. He really should have known better or he probably did know better. Funnel the money to the banks and this is just another way to do it. Republicans doing the same, at least I gave Pawlenty more credit, but that is gone now. Non profits are buying up and selling to other people, its good to be in the non profit business particularly if you are dealing in real estate. There is a reason for not giving the money to the homeowner because the deal should have been to offer it in lieu of the 2 million modifications the administration hoped to deliver. That way people could have stayed in their homes until they worked through their hardship.

  6. Indio Police Fight Foreclosed Eye Sores

    A local police chief fights to save property values here in the valley and he’s going toe-to-toe with bank CEOs to do it.

    Indio police chief Brad Ramos is featured in the Wall Street Journal for citing banks leaving foreclosed properties to diminish into eye sores. He says homes with dead landscaping, algae-filled swimming pools etc, are bringing home values down and welcome crime.

    A new city ordinance allows police to fine banks or charge them with a misdemeanor. One major bank already paid $3,400 in fines.

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