Henderson residents will soon see a more proactive approach by city officials in combating potential blight issues with the establishment of a foreclosure registry.
The Abandoned Residential Real Property Registry, which will be launched in the next 90 days, will include contact information for the property mortgagee, giving Henderson officials someone to reach in cases of property neglect. The ordinance also details an inspection schedule, required maintenance including landscaping, pool upkeep, door and window repair, among other items.
The city joined neighboring cities which have adopted ordinances establishing a registration and maintenance program for properties in foreclosure prior to them becoming abandoned. The database will also include properties already sitting empty.
Barbara Geach, neighborhood relations manager for Henderson, said the registry will “improve and stabilize our neighborhoods.”
The ordinance establishing the registry was approved by the City Council on Tuesday.
The registry will provide the city with contact information for the homeowner, bank, mortgage company or management company. The city currently does not have a clear number of how many homes sit vacant, or where they all are located.
“I can’t tell you how many times code enforcement waste a lot of their time running around trying to figure out who is responsible,” Geach told the council Tuesday. “This would require real-time contact information so we know who to deal with.”
Geach said city officials won’t have to wait for a citizen’s complaint that a house is falling into disarray or a pool is turning green before acting. Without the registry, code enforcement is tasked with securing the home or cleaning up a yard of an abandoned home if an owner or lender cannot be located. The city will send a bill to the lender or owner if they are located.
The registry will enable the city to work with whoever owns the home in foreclosure before it falls into disrepair.
By improving the overall appearance of abandoned homes, the value of the homes and surrounding property values will be preserved and public safety will be improved, according to city officials.
“Homes have to be secure,” Geach said. “We can’t have abandoned homes that have broken windows and doors that don’t exist.”
Whoever holds the mortgage to a vacant house in foreclosure, whether a bank or a private lender, must register the property with the city’s Community Development Services Department.
The fee will be $200 for initial property registration and $50 to change the contact information. A Nevada-based licensed property manager must be hired by the lender to inspect the property monthly. A $200 fee will be collected annually while the property remains on the registry.
Failure to comply could result in a $150-per-day fine and a misdemeanor citation issued by city Code Enforcement. The registry website will be operated by a third party that will bid for the contract, city spokesman Keith Paul said. The registry should be operational in 90 days.
Mayor Andy Hafen said the city has received 90 percent voluntary compliance from banks and private lenders when contacted by the city so he doesn’t anticipate a lot of fines through the registry.
“The biggest thing we get from this ordinance is that at least we have a responsible person now that we can go to with real-time issues then,” Hafen said.
Geach said Las Vegas and North Las Vegas have not had to issue fines to gain compliance.
Las Vegas started a foreclosure registry in December 2011, and 5,113 properties have been registered, generating $741,800 in fees for the city. North Las Vegas, which adopted its ordinance in December 2012, did not return a request for its numbers.
Nearly 2,130 properties, or one in 644 homes, in Henderson are currently in various stages of foreclosure including default, auction or bank owned, according to Realty Trac Inc. By comparison, one in every 628 homes in Las Vegas and one in every 343 homes in North Las Vegas are in foreclosure.
Joe Locatelli, spokesman for the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, asked the Henderson City Council not to hold property managers liable for fines.
“We believe that property managers, by virtue of having no ownership interest to the property they are managing, should not be held liable in this ordinance,” he said.
City Attorney Josh Reid said the purpose of the ordinance is not to go after property managers but to have a local contact who can be reached if there is a blighted home.
“The point is not to get a hammer,” Reid said. “We’re not a homeowners association that issues fines by the week and then sends a collection agency. That’s not the history of our enforcement.”
Hafen said the property manager would probably “take care of business and come in compliance” or remove itself from working for the property owner if the owner doesn’t cooperate.
The mayor directed city officials to give the City Council a status update on the registry in a year.
Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3882. Follow him on Twitter @KnightlyGrind.