Lake Worth's approach on empty homes includes citing banks, assessing properties
Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post
By Willie Howard
Published August 23, 2011
LAKE WORTH — William Waters, director of the city's Community Development Department, is working on multiple fronts to address a chronic problem in the heart of the city: abandoned homes and apartments that invite crime and devalue neighborhoods.
Waters will propose an ordinance to city commissioners in October that would allow the city to add to property tax bills expenses incurred while cleaning and boarding up abandoned properties.
With some of the foreclosed homes, records show final foreclosure judgments have been made in court. But even years after the final judgments, in some cases the lender has not taken title to the property, leaving the city with no one to hold responsible.
"They have not received a certificate of title, so it still shows up in the former owner's name," said Al Vega, a team leader with the city's Code Compliance Division.
As a third angle of attack on the problem, Capt. Rolando Silva of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's District 14 office is sending letters to banks notifying them about crimes that have occurred around foreclosed homes and informing them they could be held liable for future crimes on their property.
"You may want to seek legal advice from an attorney on this matter," Silva wrote to one bank.
The sheriff's office letters also list code violations on the properties, update the banks about code fines owed and remind them Lake Worth requires foreclosed properties to be registered online at www.vacantregistry.com .
"We're going to get aggressive," City Manager Susan Stanton said. "We're going to start citing the banks and assessing the properties."
Commissioner Scott Maxwell, who represents District 1 in the city's southwest quadrant where many foreclosed homes are located, said the multifaceted approach to dealing with foreclosed homes is needed.
"Any pressure we can bring to the folks in town who aren't doing the right thing will be a good thing," Maxwell said.