MACo Associate Director Natasha Mehu sought to support legislation (SB 1033) with consensus amendments intended to establish an expedited foreclosure process for homes that are vacant and abandoned. These properties are often a source of blight and nuisance for the communities surrounding them.
Over the interim MACo participated in the workgroup that studied foreclosures as well as vacant and abandoned properties with the goal of providing local governments additional tools for addressing problem properties. Recently stakeholders came to a consensus on amendments to establish a framework for an expedited foreclosure process without unintended consequences that may undermine the benefits.
MACo’s testimony raised a number of concerns that are addressed with the consensus amendments:
The bill requires that the appropriate county official verify to the court that the property is vacant and abandoned before the expedited foreclosure process may move forward.
The county would be vulnerable to constitutional claims and other costly and time-consuming lawsuits from an aggrieved party should the property turn out not to be vacant and abandoned.
Counties are also concerned about the staff time and resources that would need to be dedicated to inspecting the properties in order to verify that they are vacant and abandoned.
The mandatory inspections and verifications for the expedited foreclosure process would add a new layer of responsibly to their workloads without additional compensation, stretching already limited resources even thinner. The responsibility for verifying the properties are vacant and abandoned should fall on the foreclosing party.
Finally, while the community will benefit from a property that is no longer vacant and unmaintained, the bill should include stronger and clearer protections for the property owner on record. This could include adding notice provisions, as well as opportunities for an owner to object and appeal. The criteria used to determine “vacant and abandoned” should also be reinforced by appropriate documentation.
This bill was heard by the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee on March 16. The cross-file to the bill (HB 702) was heard by the House Environment & Transportation committee on February 14, 2017. The house committee issued a favorable report on the house bill with the consensus amendments. Click here for previous Conduit Street coverage.
Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.