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Who is responsible for upkeep of abandoned homes?


Article by Kathy Dunker

Managing forclosure properties in Douglas County

Letter to the editor dated July 27, 2012: I’d appreciate you investigating the foreclosure process and responsibility in maintaining properties including lawn maintenance … the [bank] owner has done nothing to maintain the appearance of the property. The HOA says they’ve written letters and all they can do is assess fines. I find it hard to believe that a neighborhood or city would not be able to take some action to remedy this situation.

With close to 100 foreclosures currently in the 80108 zip code, maintenance is a big issue. Homes are being abandoned, not once, but twice. First, by the families who were evicted, and then a second time by the banks and mortgage companies that seized the properties yet often times have taken no responsibility for the upkeep. Neighbors are left with the blight and the question of who is responsible for maintaining these vacant properties?

According to the Castle Pines North Home Owner’s Association Covenants, Section 1:
“The structures and grounds of each lot shall be maintained in a neat and attractive manner. Upon the owner’s failure to do so, the Architectural Control Committee may, at its option, after giving the owner thirty days written notice, have the grass, weeds, and vegetation cut when, and as often as necessary in its judgment, and have dead trees, shrubs, and plants removed from any lot.”

Furthermore, according to Section 3: “The cost of such maintenance … shall be assessed against the lot upon which such maintenance is done and shall be added to, and become a part of, the monthly maintenance assessment or charge to which such lot is subject.”

What if there is no governing HOA? Who is responsible for maintanence and paying the bill?
Last year in the city of Chicago, an ordinance was passed, backed by its mayor that gave banks only 60 days after homeowners default on a mortgage to begin basic upkeep — shooing squatters, boarding up windows, mowing the grass and shoveling snow.

In essence, banks are beginning to be treated like homeowners. Noncompliance means fines of up to $1,000 per day. In the first three months of 2012, the City of Chicago collected $619,000 in fines from financial institutions. But is that the answer for Douglas County?

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this question. The research we found ndicates it is different for every situation. In some cases, neighbors simply joined together to clean up the property. One thing is for sure; when new neighbors move in it is cause for celebration. Welcome them!  

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