“These abandoned homes run down property values for everyone in the neighborhood at the same time that they are increasing their insurance costs,” Fiorentini said.
At a recent meeting, councilors raised concerns that the mayor’s ordinance would be difficult to enforce and that the fines and registration fee might be excessive for some property owners who are in tough financial shape. LePage said those concerns appear to have been addressed in the compromise.
Fiorentini said similar ordinances have been successful in curbing the problem of abandoned and dilapidated homes in Methuen, Lynn and Lowell.
“The only way we can identify these abandoned homes now is when neighbors call us,” the mayor said. “But when we send letters to the bank that owns the property, they ignore us. This will allow us to start fining them. That’s what banks respond to.”
Fiorentini said the city has had some success using other methods to handle the problem, such as taking owners to court where judges appoint receivers to take control of abandoned properties. Receivers then pay for repairs and maintenance, and are reimbursed when the property is sold.
But the process of having a receiver appointed can take up to two years, the mayor said.
We’ve been able to get seven homes into receivership in two years,” he said. “It’s a great program, but we need additional tools to make it happen faster.”
The council rejected a similar proposal from the mayor in 2009, with several councilors saying they did not believe it would be effective and that it was too broad, overly complicated and legally unenforceable as written.