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Michigan Cities Tackle Abandoned Homes

The city of Detroit has implemented a ""new vacant property procedure"":http://www.ci.detroit.mi.us/Departments/BuildingsSafetyEngineering/BlightOrdinancePropertyMaintenanceInformation/tabid/570/Default.aspx that allows city inspectors to board up vacant, foreclosed homes at the cost of the property owner. The city says the ordinance is intended to secure and protect vacant properties for the safety of the community.
Based on market data issued by ""RealtyTrac"":http://www.realtytrac.com//ContentManagement/PressRelease.aspxxchannelid=9&ItemID=6203 this week, the Detroit metropolitan area has the thirty-sixth highest foreclosure rate among the nation's largest metros, with one in every 100 homes in the area receiving a foreclosure filing during the first quarter of the year.
Under the newly implemented authority, Detroit's building and safety engineering department can board any structure where they feel an imminent danger exists. Effective immediately, if a city inspector finds a vacant home they will post an emergency notice on the property, giving the property owner 24 hours to secure it in accordance with city standards. The standards set forth by the building inspector are boarding of all basement windows, any windows lower than five feet, front and back doors, and all porch windows.
If the homeowner does not take action within 24 hours, the city inspector will board up the home at the expense of the property owner. City officials estimate the cost to the property owner could run as high as $1,200 per instance: a $500 administration fee, $300 - $400 board-up costs, and $300 in fines.
Local real estate broker Chad Evans, of ""Realty Executives Pointes"":http://www.realtyexecutivespointes.com, said, ""This imposed action makes it even more critical to make sure our properties are secure,"" adding that weekly inspections are required to ensure compliance.
The Detroit suburb of Farmington is also one of the first communities in the state to fight back against neighborhood blight by requiring banks and brokers that own abandoned homes to maintain their properties or face penalties.
Last week, Farmington officials approved an amendment to the city's nuisance ordinance, similar to regulations enacted in California and Minnesota, that requires abandoned home owners to register their properties so the city can better monitor their upkeep. According to the city, the new mandate will help preserve home values for its 10,000 residents.
On the city of ""Farmington Web site"":http://ci.farmington.mi.us/xnews.htm, officials said, ""While there is nothing the city can do to affect the decline associated with the overall market conditions, we can mitigate the impacts associated with property maintenance and blight within the city.""
Farmington City Manager Vincent Pastue told the _""Detroit Free Press"":http://www.freep.com _that Farmington has about 50 homes in foreclosure, and about 40 percent are abandoned. Pastue explained that the new ordinance requires banks and brokers who own vacant properties to make sure trash is removed and the grass is cut, and requires them to hire a local property management firm to monitor properties weekly.
The ordinance does not apply to residents facing foreclosure, but banks and brokers that don't comply with the new rules will be fined and could even find that a lien has been placed on the property by the city.
According to the _Detroit Free Press_, a glut of foreclosed homes in southeast Michigan is being blamed for the roughly 50 percent drop in the median sale price seen during the first three months of the year. The paper said that officials in several other southern Michigan communities say they may consider their own vacant property ordinances if the market continues to decline.

About Author: Carrie Bay

Carrie Bay is a freelance writer for DS News and its sister publication MReport. She served as online editor for DSNews.com from 2008 through 2011. Prior to joining DS News and the Five Star organization, she managed public relations, marketing, and media relations initiatives for several B2B companies in the financial services, technology, and telecommunications industries. She also wrote for retail and nonprofit organizations upon graduating from Texas A&M University with degrees in journalism and English.

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