EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


May 21, 2013

City takes aim at abandoned homes

Proposal would fund registry with $250 fee; impose $300-a-week fine on scofflaws


The mayor said the city has had recent success with convincing judges to assign receivers to take control of abandoned homes in the city. In those scenarios, receivers typically pay for repairs and maintenance, and they are reimbursed when the property is sold.

”Our showcase example is a home on Fifth Avenue that was fixed by a receiver and recently sold to a family,” Fiorentini said. “We want to see more of that, but for it to happen we need to know where the abandoned properties are.”

City Council, which rejected a similar proposal from the mayor in 2009, is scheduled to consider the new version at tonight’s meeting.

Back in 2009, councilors who opposed Fiorentini’s proposal said they did not believe it would be effective and that it was too broad, overly complicated and legally unenforceable as written. They also said there are state laws that can help the city battle the problem.

”It’s an important issue because one bad building can bring down a whole neighborhood,” Councilor William Macek said. “But I’m against creating regulations that are unenforceable. I’m going to have to be convinced that we can enforce this and that we have the manpower to enforce it.”

Macek said owners are unlikely to notify the city or take care of a building they have abandoned just because some ordinance says they are supposed to.

“Foreclosure is not a voluntary process,” Macek said. “People generally do it because they are having financial problems, so it’s highly unlikely they are going to pay for upkeep and have the grass mowed ... We have more than enough unenforceable ordinances on the books. We don’t need any more. But if it’s written well and it’s enforceable, I’ll consider it.”

The mayor said there’s plenty of teeth in his new proposal. He said it has been re-worked to address concerns councilors had with his first attempt.

”If it’s legally vacant for 90 days or more, we will start fining the owner, which is usually a bank,” he said. “And if we have to make repairs on our own, this will let us get that money back when the property is sold.”

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