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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014 6 years ago

City hopes to solve problems in abandoned house registry

by: Wayne Grant Real Estate Editor

Citizens group offers opportunity for anonymous complaints

Keeping tabs on abandoned houses, in an effort to keep them properly maintained, has proven to be a difficult task for the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Division, and a company has been hired to take over the registration list.

A memo from the division to the City Commission states that mortgages changing hands makes it difficult for the NID to find the responsible party after a citizen complaint about a house. Also, servicing agents, hired by banks to maintain the properties, have sometimes not performed responsibly, the memo states.

The city has also increased the registration fee from $150 to $250, with the extra $100 going to pay the company, Community Champions Corp., of Melbourne.

The Abandoned Real Property Ordinance, adopted in 2010, requires that lending institutions register vacant properties for which a notice of default or an impending foreclosure has been issued. The lending institutions are then required to maintain the property if it becomes abandoned.

In the memo to the City Commission, the NID states that some servicing agents, hired by the lending institution, reported that a property was occupied after seeing a neighbor’s car in a driveway. Other cases included a property being reported occupied when a light was left on, or a flower basket was left hanging on the front porch. Since the lending institution thought the building was occupied, no maintenance was done.

As a result, the NID Staff spent additional time conducting research to prove to the servicing agent that the property was truly vacant.

Another issue was that contractors, hired by the servicing agents, would only mow a portion of the yard, and submit a photo of the mowed portion to collect their fee, according to the memo. As a result, NID staff spent excessive time verifying contractor work was completed.

Joanne Naumann, Neighborhood Improvement manager, said when they received a complaint from a resident about a property, it was sometimes difficult to identify the responsible party, because mortgages are often shifted from one institution to the other. She said Community Champions Corp. has the expertise and capabilities to maintain an accurate list.

“They deal with them all over Florida,” she said. “If we have code violations, we can let the company know and they will get with the bank. It’s another tool to achieve compliance.”

Citizens group advocates code for structure

Rita Press, president of Citizens for Ormond Beach, a civic group that conducted a months-long study on the abandoned house problem, said they are in favor of the increase in fees because it will pay for the service, and hopefully the company will keep the registration list up-to-date.

“This should allow code enforcement more time to spend in the field,” she said. “We’ll see how it works out.”

Also, CFOB has pushed for stronger codes for housing structure, which city staff is currently working on.

“We look forward to seeing this ordinance come to pass, hopefully by the end of the year.” Press said.

Press said that if a person wants to complain anonymously about a house, they can visit the organization’s website, CFOB will notify the city and the person will remain anonymous.

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