New law helps track foreclosed properties (Real Estate Today)

October 10, 2008
By

DAVID TABER

A city ordinance passed early this year is giving community members and public officials new tools to deal with foreclosed and abandoned properties.

The legislation, known as the Foreclosure Ordinance, requires residential properties that have been abandoned or where foreclosure proceedings have been initiated to be registered with the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) within seven days.

The law now requires the person who files the foreclosure petition to register the owner or local owner-agent’s name and contact information, and the name and contact information of the local property manager responsible for upkeep of the property. That information must also be posted on-site at the house.

Insulated by a still-strong real estate market, JP has not seen nearly as many foreclosures as other neighborhoods in Boston or across the country. The ordinance did come into play recently with condos in a Hyde Square building, though.

“It’s been fantastic,” said Millicent Johnson, an aide to state Rep. Liz Malia who coordinates JP’s Problem Properties Committee.

JP’s problem properties group, like others across the city, works with ISD and the police to keep tabs on and develop strategies to deal with properties that present public nuisances or public health hazards.

One aspect of that work that has always been challenging tracking down and contacting absentee property owners, Johnson said.

The foreclosure crisis has added a new twist to that challenge, she said, because when national multi-national banks take over the deeds to those properties, maintenance and upkeep often falls by the wayside. “It’s a lot of work” getting information out of the banks, she said. “Sometimes they don’t want to tell you” whether they are even holding the deed to the property, she said.

“The foreclosure ordinance is a really good solution to a lot of problems we have been facing,” said Michael Reiskind, a local resident and Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council members who sits on the Problem Properties Committee.

A number of units in a 6-unit condo at 8 Beethoven St. have been foreclosed on. A Gazette search of the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds web site shows that different lenders have issued four foreclosure deeds for units in the condo this year.

Those foreclosure deeds include one issued by Deutsche Bank for two units—Unit 6 and Unit 3R. The numbering system for the units in the condo also appears to be somewhat fluid. One of the foreclosure deeds, issued by Wells Fargo Bank, refers to the unit it is foreclosing as Unit “5 AKA 3L.”

At any rate, despite the fact that they have been foreclosed on, most if not all of the units have remained occupied. Neighbor Flavia Reardon told the Gazette a group from Beethoven Street notified the Problem Properties Committee about concerns with the property last spring. The yard was always trashed, including once with a pile of raw meat, she said. Neighbors also suspected that drugs were being dealt on the premises, and on the morning of May 10, neighbors heard gunfire.

Police investigated and found ballistics evidence at the house, according to the E-13 police report.

At least one of the banks, Wells Fargo, eventually registered the property with the city under the foreclosure ordinance. According to a Wells Fargo spokesperson and the registry of deeds, that condo—Unit 5 AKA 3l—was sold Aug. 13 to Thomas James Robertson for $40,001.

The Beethoven Street house is not overseen by a condo association and the ownership of the other units is unclear.

But the recent attention, along with increased police attention to the property, appears to have quieted things down.

“It’s much quieter there,” said neighbor Flavia Reardon. “There is still somebody living there…A pit bull is living there that sometimes escapes, but the problem got better.”

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