Thoughts On Code Enforcement And Your Property

From Letitia Pepper

I hereby request that the following item be put on the City Council Agenda:

Do $1,000 a Day Fines, Resulting in $100,000 Liens on Properties in Foreclosure,
Actually Promote the Public Peace, Safety and Welfare?
Wouldn’t Abating Code Violations. and then Liening Properties
for the Costs of Abatement, Make More Sense,
Given the Alleged Purpose/Goals of Code Enforcement?

Dear Council Members and Mayor:
Why is the City fining properties in foreclosure $1,000 a day?  How does this promote the public safety, peace or welfare?

People who can’t make their house payments obviously can’t afford $1,000 a day, and they probably can’t afford to undertake, and no longer care to undertake, the actions needed to abate a problem.

So these liens end up becoming the problem of a mortage holder, and the eyesore remain, making the surrounding area look worse and worse.  So, if a property owner fails to abate a code enforcement violation, why isn’t the City directing code enforcement, with the assistance of appropriate city employees or outside contractors, to abate these problems, and then liening the property for the cost of abatement instead of repetitively fining and liening for the fines?

There’s a house across the street and down one house from my home, which has been foreclosed upon.  I know the City was citing it for code violations, at $1,000 a day, for such violations as the lack of appropriate front landscaping.

yard with free mulchI also know that one can get wood chips (for $7 a yard) or mulch (for free) at the Agua Mansa Transfer Station, and, of course, the City is actively encouraging people to replace lawns with landscaping that uses no or low water.

So, could the City please actually abate the nuisance of no front landscaping at this house, and others, by at least neatly covering the front yard with free mulch?

I don’t understand how the City can fine someone $1,000 a day, up to $100,000, for the effort involved in merely going out and posting violation notices on a foreclosed property and then sitting back and doing nothing — knowing that most mortgage holders aren’t paying attention to these properties.

It seems to me that there should be some actual public “service” involved for putting liens of $1,000/day and up to $100,000 total, especially when the specific situation (a property in foreclosure) is one which is unlikely to be abated by the owner as a result of simply increasing fines.  In such cases, it would make more sense for the City to abate the nuisance itself, and lien the property for the cost of abatement.

This actual abatement of this kind of basic, neighborhood-damaging code violations also makes a lot of sense in terms of the underlying purpose of code enforcement: the protection of the public’s peace, health and safety.  Properties with deteriorated exteriors attract crime, so when it comes to foreclosed, no longer owner-occupied properties in possession of banks, it would seem that abatement, not just citations, is the answer.

As we’ve seen in past housing recessions, the banks aren’t paying any attention to these places. In fact, does Code Enforcement even send the violation notices, or copies of them, to the senior lien holders?
Needless to say, the cost of actual abatements would be recoverable upon sale of the foreclosed property.

I think this issue is an important one that should be put on the Council’s agenda for discussion.  I understand that there are thousands of city properties that are currently in foreclosure, and being cited in this way.

I’d also like to know (1) into what fund any lien fines are placed, (2) what happens to those fines, and (3) what the City does with any properties it acquires, even temporarily, as a result of such liens.



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