Code Enforcement Departments for Counties and Municipalities across the United States have been grappling with the increased workload issues created by the rising number of vacant and abandoned properties due to the continuous pursuit of foreclosures by mortgagees (banks, lenders, and lien-holders). ForeclosureListings.com confirmed that the “national foreclosure rate in January 2010 was one foreclosure filing for every 466 U.S.
Households; the most severe problems continue in the West and Florida. Unemployment, economic hardship, negative equity, and credit availability are driving the foreclosures.” If a property owner was in default with their mortgage payments and could not satisfy the outstanding debt or bring the mortgage and any outstanding penalties current during the pre-foreclosure stage, they were surely going to be faced with having to leave their home.
In some cases, property owners that were upside down in their mortgage or through financial hardship found themselves in a position where expenses were just too overwhelming may have chosen to walk away from their homes, no matter how difficult it was for them and their families. In a time when most jurisdictions, tiny local governments, are also dealing with the difficulties created by financial dilemmas and hardships that are reducing the workforce and resources, the rising foreclosures have taken their toll on code enforcement departments that are tasked with trying to keep neighborhoods and communities from becoming blighted, unsafe, and depreciated.
The problems created by sitting vacant residential properties, such as vandalism, unsafe open structures, stagnant swimming pools, to name a few, created immense expense as communities were tasked with securing and abating these problems without assistance from any property owners or residents. Often, the property owners who were responsible for maintaining their homes during this difficult time felt it unfair that they were still required to provide for regular upkeep of their properties or face code enforcement penalties while the abandoned foreclosed homes next door were neglected and left to bring down the value of their homes and detract from their neighborhoods.
According to the latest report from RealtyTrac, a company that monitors the trends of foreclosures across each state, “Florida posted the nation’s second-highest state foreclosure rate in November 2009 with one in every 165 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing during the month. Florida took the No. 2 spot from California, which posted the nation’s third-highest foreclosure rate.” It became common for community members and leaders around the State of Florida to feel that the mortgagees were slow to take responsibility for these assets and started putting pressure on county and local governments to address these properties without using their tax dollars.
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