Neglected homes will merit penalties

CITY HALL — In an effort to curb neglected property linked to the foreclosure epidemic, the City Council passed a law Tuesday that will allow the city to levy major fines on banks and housing speculators who don’t keep vacant properties up to code.

“We get phenomenal amounts of complaints on these properties throughout the foreclosed process,” said Sam Engel, Neighborhood Services administrator for the city.

The City Council voted unanimously to pass the law, which authorizes city officials to fine new owners of foreclosed properties $1,000 for each day that their property is deemed dilapidated or blighted. The measure formalizes a state law that allows cities to fine lenders who fail to correct violations after receiving a 30-day notice.

City officials proposed the law as a way to compel financial institutions to maintain foreclosed properties, but it initially ignited dissent from the Glendale Assn. of Realtors. The proposal was originally scheduled for consideration May 5, but was postponed after the association expressed concern that the law did not provide exceptions for still-occupied residences, which Realtors can’t legally enter.

Engel met with the association to discuss their concerns.

“We ended up with a much more effective way to administer the policy locally,” he said.

The measure was revised to include exceptions for properties illegally occupied by a previous renter or the foreclosed owner. The new owner is given 30 days to correct violations once in possession of the property.

The provisions elicited some concern from the dais.

“How is there equity in that?” Councilman Ara Najarian asked before eventually voting for the law. The law follows a recent spike in foreclosures across the country. April set a national record for foreclosure rates, according to RealtyTrac, a private firm that has been tracking the trend since 2005.

One in 374 households entered foreclosure last month, and the number of filings in California jumped 42% from April 2008, according to the firm.

Between March 6 and April 3, 51 properties were foreclosed in Glendale, according to a city report. There have been 251 foreclosed properties in Glendale since January, according to RealtyTrac.

The $1,000 fines — the maximum allowed under state law — will be deposited into a special revenue account to be used for abating public nuisances. The penalties are scheduled to go into effect June 1.

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