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Archive for the ‘Foreclosure’ Category

Compliance Connections assists inspectors

April 16th, 2013 No comments

The Illinois Association of Code Enforcement group does a lot of informative programming for its members.  Recently I had the pleasure of attending a day of training and learning more about Compliance Connections which is a division of Safeguard, one of the largest service companies that take care of properties for lenders.  I first wrote about Compliance Connections last year after learning about it from inspectors in Minnesota.  Everyone has a horror story about the lack of involvement by lenders and service companies used by them but I think some real progress has been made recently.  The inspectors I work with have had success using this website (which is a free service) to get grass cut or trash removed.  However, the company only addresses vacant property issues due to potential litigation with property owners so there are restriction.  In addition, privacy laws sometime restrict service companies from contacting inspectors when a problem with the property arises.

Inspectors can use Compliance Connections to notify a servicer about problems on the property.  Compliance Connections should respond and the inspector will get notified about a plan for correction as well as the lender.  It can also be used to send information on outstanding bills (e.g. for cutting weeds) so that the municipality gets paid.

The speaker, Heather Lazar (phone 1-800-852-8306 x 1500) encouraged inspectors to report contractors to Safeguard who violate local ordinances by working without the proper permits.  Safeguard doesn’t actually do the work required but relies on local contractors.  If a contractor doesn’t follow Safeguard’s rules, the company may be excluded from future work.  Other people to contact when there is an issue using Compliance Connections are Michael Halpern 1-800-852-8306 x 1392 and David Mazanek 800-852-8306 x 1261.

Safeguard will pay for 8 scholarships for inspectors to the AACE conference in Oklahoma City, OK which starts October 30, 2013.

 

 

 

HUD contact for property management

February 14th, 2013 No comments

One of the inspectors I work with shared this with me about contact information for a property management company taking care of properties for HUD.

HUD has established a contract with PK Management Group c/o Prescient, Inc. to do property management of all HUD properties. The Florida office contact number is 305-854-1711.

I hope this will be useful to you.  I have been preoccupied lately with planning to move my office.  I will let my readers know all of the particulars as the time gets closer.  The contact information will hopefully remain the same.

Politics and the foreclosure crisis

June 7th, 2012 No comments

One of the biggest problems facing local governments these days is finding the resources to maintain vacant properties.  These homes are empty because of the foreclosure crisis and for the most part, lenders with mortgages on the property are reluctant to pay for the upkeep so the problem falls on the city, town or village.  One would think that during the worst housing disaster in our life time, state government would help local governments deal with these properties by passing legislation that makes it easier to hold lenders responsible.  Unfortunately, in Illinois, little is being done by the General Assembly.  Bills that would help us fail year after year.  At least now we have some information as to why it’s so difficult.  The Chicago Tribune this week published a long article detailing how the Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, represents numerous banks in his private legal practice.  In Illinois he pretty well controls what legislation sees the light of day and what bills do not.  When I travel out of the state to do trainings, I am ashamed to say that I am from Illinois when I hear what other states are doing.  For example, in some other states, if the local government cuts the grass, the cost goes on next year’s tax bill.  When the taxes are paid, the local government gets paid.  That doesn’t happen in Illinois.  There is a law the purports to allow this process but it was drafted as to be unenforceable.  Illinois is becoming a punchline to a joke that isn’t very funny.

Compliance Connections website worth a visit

February 7th, 2012 No comments

Yesterday when I was teaching at the Region III conference in Chasta, MN, one of the participants shared with us his experiences with Compliance Connections.  It’s a website that allows municipal inspectors to get connected with the right entity to gain code compliance on a problem property.  It’s sponsored by Safeguard and the inspector says he’s had unbelievable help from the website.  He told us that he’s had grass cut in a couple of days, he’s gotten calls from service companies that aren’t owned by Safeguard to promise compliance and is very pleased with the results.  Apparently, Safeguard is trying to reduce the number of notices of violation that lenders are receiving for vacant properties or problem properties in their portfolios.  It is definitely worth checking out when you have difficulty determining who is responsible for a property.  The website is located at http://www.complianceconnections.com/

I’d love to hear from people who have tried it.

FHFA sues Chicago over vacant building registration

December 16th, 2011 No comments

A very worrisome lawsuit has been filed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, against the City of Chicago which recently passed an ordinance that requires mortgage holders to register vacant buildings 30 days after they become vacant or 60 days after a mortgage goes into default, whichever is later, pay a registration fee, keep the premises free of weeds or trash and make sure they are structurally sound.

The lawsuit says that:

….the city’s ordinance encroaches on the FHFA’s role as the sole regulator and supervisor of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It says Chicago cannot mandate how the agencies handle vacant buildings for which they are the designated mortgagee.

The problem is that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own about 258,000 mortgages in Chicago so a considerable number of vacant structures would be unregulated if the lawsuit succeeds.  Illinois law makes it almost impossible for a municipality to cut weeds, fix up property and add the costs to the property tax bill.  This has really hampered our ability to address problem properties which is why ordinances like the one in Chicago are so important.

Healthy homes conference Part 6

November 4th, 2011 No comments

At the Springfield conference, my topic was effective code enforcement programs. After hearing about all of the substantive issues involving healthy homes, it was really a privilege to be able to speak about how to accomplish our mutual goals.  There was a lot of frustration over the problems we are facing because budgets are being slashed, programs cancelled and properties are getting worse because of the foreclosure mess.  Despite this, it was important to find out that there are a lot of committed professionals who are forming partnerships to address these issues.  And, there are steps inspectors can take that don’t cost much money to implement, for example, making sure that renovators are certified in lead paint removal before issuing a building permit.  Who knows how many health problems children are spared because of this simple procedure? The training in Springfield was offered free of cost as were many of the publications.  I hope my readers will make use of the links I have created to find these organizations. I want to thank Eleanor Davis from the IDPH, Lead Paint Program, for inviting me to speak at the conference and giving me the opportunity to meet the other speakers.  I hope it will lead to even better enforcement opportunities.

Healthy homes conference Part 2

October 30th, 2011 No comments

When I am in court, my focus is on the safety of the building that is the subject of my prosecution.  I don’t know that I’ve paid that much attention to the effect that the problem with the property is having on the long term health of the residents.  It certainly has been a concern when there is an immediate hazard but otherwise I haven’t really concentrated on what the implications are to general health.  That is why it was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet professionals for whom this is a great concern.

Amy McLean Sales from the National Center for Healthy Housing spoke at the conference about the seven principles of healthy housing.  They are:

Dry: Damp houses provide a nurturing environment for mites, roaches, rodents, and molds, all of which are associated with asthma.

Clean: Clean homes help reduce pest infestations and exposure to contaminants.

Pest-Free: Recent studies show a causal relationship between exposure to mice and cockroaches and asthma episodes in children; yet inappropriate treatment for pest infestations can exacerbate health problems, since pesticide residues in homes pose risks for neurological damage and cancer.

Safe: The majority of injuries among children occur in the home. Falls are the most frequent cause of residential injuries to children, followed by injuries from objects in the home, burns, and poisonings.

Contaminant-Free: Chemical exposures include lead, radon, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and environmental tobacco smoke. Exposures to asbestos particles, radon gas, carbon monoxide, and second-hand tobacco smoke are far higher indoors than outside.

Ventilated: Studies show that increasing the fresh air supply in a home improves respiratory health.

Maintained: Poorly-maintained homes are at risk for moisture and pest problems. Deteriorated lead-based paint in older housing is the primary cause of lead poisoning, which affects some 240,000 U.S. children.

These principles apply to many of the homes that have been the object of court cases I have handled.

Amy also showed statistics that communities of color are more likely to live in unhealthy housing. I would imagine a lot of the housing is rental property not maintained by the landlords.  I asked her about resources to help people in this economic environment to fix properties in need of repair but she is as frustrated as I am because of the lack of money available to help people who need assistance to fix a deteriorating property.  The grim reality is that if we don’t do something now, they will be the properties we will need to demolish 5 years or 10 years from now.

 

Fewer inspectors, more problem properties

October 23rd, 2011 No comments

One of the very unfortunate consequences of the economic downturn is the layoff of code enforcement personnel.  Peoria, Illinois is facing the layoff of about 1/3 of its staff.  I’ve had the good fortune of doing a number of training days in or near Peoria.  As with many cities, it struggles hard to prevent blight.  I fear a spiraling down effect in cities and towns where budget cuts leads to weaker enforcement which leads to more problems in neighborhoods that are already struggling.  The inspectors I work with are already doing as much as they can to deal with problem properties.  What will some of these towns and cities look like in 10 years because of the decisions we are making today?

Demolition One Solution to Foreclosed Homes

August 30th, 2011 No comments

NPR did a story yesterday on how some banks have decided to demolish foreclosed properties in Cleveland and give the land to local government for its land bank because it’s a way to save save the costs of servicing these properties with the added benefit that it helps stabilize the neighborhood.  The agreement was described this way:

The Cuyahoga County Land Bank, a quasi-government corporation, offered lenders a deal: We’ll take your worst houses, if you pay to knock them down. This year, Fannie Mae and some of the country’s biggest lenders — including Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo — will help pay for half of the land bank’s 700 scheduled demolitions.

Based on what I’m seeing, it makes sense to demolish these residences sooner, rather than later.  I’ve seen homes open to raccoons and water damage that just keep deteriorating.  No one is ever going to buy them and fix them up.  With the banks sharing the cost of demolition in these circumstances, it becomes possible to stop the trend toward blight in the surrounding community. The vacant land can be used as green space or bought by someone who wants to build a new residence.  We’re finding that in some circumstances these properties are more marketable if the derelict house is gone.

Banks Leave Property in Limbo

July 28th, 2011 No comments

The Chicago Tribune has taken on lenders over the devastation that has befallen neighborhoods while they sit back and let property deteriorate.  I’ve noticed a phenomenon in my practice when I’ve researched properties in foreclosure that have code violations. Lately I am seeing more and more foreclosure actions that are stalled after the lender obtains a judgment of foreclosure.  No sheriff sale takes place or the sale is canceled.  The lender doesn’t take the steps to get the deed and tells the local government that it’s not responsible for the property even though the owner is long gone.  The article in the Tribune discusses the consequences of such business practices:

Such legal maneuvers by banks, which in many cases either walk away from properties that aren’t worth selling or let foreclosure proceedings languish in an overwhelmed court system, have left thousands of dilapidated vacant houses in ownership limbo citywide.

At the same time, the financial industry is fighting against proposed legislation in Illinois that would make it responsible for the upkeep of a property once a foreclosure suit has been filed if the property is vacant.

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