Printer Friendly

Policing and Managing Vacant and Abandoned Properties

Municipalities with high foreclosure rates are finding themselves responsible for maintaining a growing number of vacant and abandoned homes. Law enforcement and other city agencies are finding it necessary to work together to address the code enforcement, eviction, and crime issues surrounding these properties. On November 3, 2008, a number of city representatives and law enforcement agencies joined a COPS Office conference call to discuss managing vacant properties.

Many participants recommended foreclosure prevention and early identification of homes in danger of foreclosure to alleviate the burden placed on cities and police agencies. Below are a list of resources and counter-measures to address this problem.

City Ordinances

In Lee's Summit, Missouri, abandoned residential properties which are in the foreclosure process must be registered with the city. Once the registration form is received, an exterior inspection of the property is performed to determine if the property is maintained in accordance with the city codes.

A Chula Vista, California ordinance forces lenders to maintain homes they seize and to register the abandoned properties with the city and requires lenders to hire local property management firms to prevent vacant homes from becoming neglected. Lenders can be held accountable for a home even before the foreclosure is complete because the property is security for the loan. This ordinance applies at the time of the first notice of default, at which time, a lender is required to determine whether anyone is living in the home. If not, it must hire a property management firm to prevent signs of disrepair. This ordinance is administered by the city's code enforcement manager.

Early Identification

Many cities are using publicly available lists to identify pre-foreclosure homes and foreclosure-distressed areas. The City of San Diego receives Notice of Default and foreclosure information from a company that provides web-based property information. Similarly, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department uses the lis pendens list to identify pre-foreclosure properties that are approximately two payments behind on their mortgages. Targeted information then goes out to the communities where clusters of distressed homes exist.

The Minneapolis Police Department also added a problem properties category to their dispatch so that they could accurately capture data about properties that comes through their dispatch service.

Useful Sites

Foreclosure Resource Center
This Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina web site provides a good example of foreclosure prevention education for the community. Assembled here are a number of resources that point homeowners to agencies that can help them learn about and avoid foreclosure.

Minnesota Foreclosure Crisis Summit
The Greater Minnesota Housing Fund hosted a Foreclosure Crisis Summit to address the statewide foreclosure crisis. This web site collects the summit's presentations, including a number on local responses. This presentation suggests a method for predicting foreclosures based on mapping concentrations of sub-prime loans.

Foreclosure Glossary
Learn the difference between Notice of Default, Notice of Sale, and Lis Pendens with this short glossary of terms.