Foreclosured homes leave unattended pools

Q: Who has the responsibility for pools on foreclosures? Is it the broker, listing agent, the real estate office, etc.? The reason I ask is there is a house in foreclosure next to my home and the pool is dark green and becoming very stagnant. I am sure it will become a problem, if not corrected, especially with infestation of insects. — James A., Las Vegas

A: You’re right in pointing out a growing problem in Southern Nevada. With the unprecedented number of vacant homes in our neighborhoods, especially those in foreclosure, we have too many properties in the Las Vegas area that are not being properly maintained.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of these homes have pools, spas and other water features that have been abandoned. Left unattended, stagnant pools are more than an eyesore. They can also become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pests. Unsecured pools and spas can also be a safety hazard, especially for any small children.

Ultimately, the legal owner of the property is responsible for maintaining the property. In addition to contacting the property owner, neighbors living in a homeowners association also can contact their HOA to report an abandoned pool and related problems.

In the case of a home in foreclosure, where ownership reverts back to a bank or other lender, a pool filled with green water is just one symptom of this problem.

The good news is that the Southern Nevada Health District can help address these green pools.

Vivek Raman, an environmental health supervisor for the SNHD, said he and his team are responding to record numbers of complaints about green pools in our neighborhoods. Just in the month of May, the SNHD responded to 542 such calls, most of which involved vacant homes.

“The majority of homes we’re responding to with green pools are abandoned swimming pools,” he said.

To respond to these complaints, Raman said the SNHD employs a team of six field inspectors and one administrator. After receiving a call about a green or abandoned pool, the district dispatches an inspector to the property who is empowered to access the property and chemically treat the water, if needed, to guard against disease. In such cases, the inspector will leave a notice on the door of the home explaining what has occurred. He said the SNHD will also mail a notice to the legal owner of the property with the problematic pool.

Basically, he explained, this notice states that “you have a bad pool. Please fix it.”

There is no charge to the property owner for this initial visit and chemical treatment. However, this initial treatment only lasts for a few weeks.

If the property owner fails to address the problem after this initial visit, the SNHD can make a second visit to chemically treat the pool with a stronger solution that can remain effective for about three months. At this point, the SNHD will bill the property owner $117 for this service.

In addition to posing an aesthetic problem, Raman said one of the SNHD’s biggest concerns about abandoned pools is the potential for standing water to breed mosquitoes with potentially deadly West Nile virus. In 2007, Nevada had a total of 12 human cases of West Nile virus, three of whom were residents of Clark County.

The health district’s environmental health specialists routinely survey and treat known breeding sources for mosquitoes and trap them for identification. They are tested for West Nile virus, Western equine encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis. West Nile virus is spread through the bite of infected mosquitoes, which acquire the virus by feeding on infected birds. The illness is not spread person to person.

To report mosquito activity, a “green” swimming pool or other sources of stagnant water in your neighborhood, visit the health district’s Web site at SouthernNevadaHealthDistrict.org or call its mosquito control hotline at 759-1220.

Patty Kelley is the president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors and has worked in the real estate industry for more than 30 years. To ask Kelley a question, e-mail her at ask@glvar.org.

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