EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

April 5, 2014

Cities use court receivers to clean up derelict properties


Gloucester created a registry about five years ago to deal with dozens of vacant houses and commercial sites abandoned by lenders and property owners. The city charges landowners an annual $500 fee. The money goes into a maintenance fund.

Foreclosed properties must be maintained, secure and have no code violations. A sign must be posted on each property with 24-hour contact information for property managers.

The city uses the registry to track down property owners and notify them of problems. If that doesn’t work, it will send landscapers to clean up a property, then place a lien to recoup those expenses.

Gloucester’s registry lists about 30 properties. Building inspector William Sanborn said that’s helped the city hold banks, mortgage firms and owners of foreclosed properties responsible.

“We’ve tried to stay on top of it,” said Sanborn. “It’s made a big difference.”

Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini recently resurrected the city’s long-dormant code enforcement team with plans to turn them loose on eyesore properties.

The city has compiled a list of nearly 140 properties — including the former St. George’s Church on upper Washington Street — that it will target to crack down on blight, including in its poorest neighborhoods.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers. He can be reached at cwade@cnhi.com

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