Connie Stokes, a DeKalb County Commissioner AND a Georgia real estate licensee has proposed and gotten passed an ordinance called the “Foreclosed Registry Program” requiring that all VACANT FORECLOSED properties in DeKalb County be registered with the county at an annual fee of $155 (in the written copy of the ordinance I obtained) or $175 (as reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution) beginning in 90 days (exact date not published, but the ordinance was passed on July 27, 2010).
Supposedly, this is to stress to owners of foreclosed properties (typically banks) the requirement to maintain and secure these vacant properties in order to “prevent blight, decreased property values and crime”. As desirable as these outcomes appear, this effort is extremely burdensome on Ms. Stokes’ fellow real estate agents, and will place real estate agents squarely in the line of fire from the public and code enforcement when banks won’t or don’t attend to their properties and will “stigmatize” otherwise normal properties.
Here are the few details which are available as of today, August 9, 2010:
- “Beneficiaries”, meaning the lenders under notes secured by deeds of trust, will be required to record with DeKalb County the contact information including street address and telephone number for the person or persons directly responsible for the property.
- IF such person or persons are located Out of Area (more than 100 road/driving miles distance from the property), such person or persons must designate and retain a local individual or local property management company responsible for the security and maintenance of the property. This is where the listing agent will often come into the situation.
- This designation of a local person must state the contact information, including street address and phone number for the staff of any applicable property management or property preservation company responsible for the security, maintenance and marketing of the property.
- Such persons responsible for the property must be empowered to (1) comply with code enforcement orders issued by the County (read this as able to pay for maintenance and preservation work), (2) provide a trespass authorization upon request of local law enforcement authorities if the property is unlawfully occupied, (3) conduct weekly inspections of the property, (4) accept rental payment from tenants of the property if no management company is otherwise employed.
So far, I’m OK with this, but here comes the kicker:
- The property must contain a “posted sign with the name and 24-hour contact phone number of the local individual (read that as listing agent) or property management company responsible for the maintenance. This sign must be posted on the front of the property so it is clearly visible from the street.“
It seems, therefore, that real estate agents who list REO properties in DeKalb County will also be required to post a sign on the front of each listing stating that he/she is the person responsible for the maintenance and security of the property.
This posting of information which must be clearly visible from the street is essentially “labeling” the property as a foreclosure, even if it’s well maintained. Stigmatizing the property, if you will, and potentially branding the property as “a danger to the neighborhood”. Some are even arguing that this labeling violates the property owner’s rights. Although I understand that many neighborhoods have been decimated by the plunging sales prices of bank-owned properties (and bank-authorized short sales, to be perfectly honest), I hear from property owners that they don’t want to publicize that every third or fourth home is a foreclosure. If it has a sign posted on the front, easily visible from the street, isn’t that exactly what WILL happen?
My opinion is that the registry is not a bad idea so that the county Code Enforcement people know who owns the property to cite for hazardous conditions and failure to maintain the property, but posting the information on the front of the house invites passers-by to
(1) notice that the house is vacant and available for mischief,
(2) count the number of “labeled” homes in the area and use that information to justify an even lower offer,
(3) harass the real estate agent named on the posted sign rather than call county Code Enforcement to report condition issues, and
(4) in the case of vacant foreclosures owned by local banks (those within 100 driving miles of the property), BYPASS the listing agent and attempt to contact the seller directly to negotiate a sale.
None of these are good.
Failing to register the property or re-register it each January 1, if still vacant and bank-owned, can result in a $1,000 per day fine up to a maximum $100,000 fine per year. The fines and the registration fees will supposedly be used to fund more code enforcement officers.
Agents, if you have or will list REO properties in DeKalb County, please make your bank clients aware of this oncoming requirement. Connie Stokes, interviewed in the AJC, stated that registration can be done online, but no details have been released yet. I expect/hope we will read much more about this in the near future.
Tags: ann bone, atlanta, atlanta real estate, bank owned, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers, Connie Stokes, Dekalb County, Foreclosed Registry Program, foreclosure, Foreclosures, georgia, listing, Metro Brokers, real estate agent, REO, seller, stigmatized properties, vacant