Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Village considers inventory of foreclosures

ISLAMORADA -- Lenders would be required to register the more than 230 properties in default in the village and pay an annual fee under an ordinance scheduled for a preliminary Village Council vote this week.

The proposed regulations would make it easier for the village to contact the owners of properties that aren't adequately maintained, allowing the town to more efficiently deal with the problem.

"Unkempt vacant properties decrease neighborhood and community aesthetics and can lead to a decline in property values," Village Manager Ed Koconis wrote in a memo explaining the ordinance to council members. The council will consider the matter on Thursday, April 25.

Under the proposed law, lenders would be required to inspect a property upon issuing a notice of default and then register the property with the village within 10 days. An annual registration fee of $200 would be charged. Lenders would also be required to designate a manager for each distressed property who could be contacted at any time. Finally, they would be required to inspect the property monthly.

At present, said village Building Director Gerry Albertson, there are "just a handful" of foreclosure properties in the village that are unkempt enough to be considered a nuisance. But when such homes are discovered, the most difficult task for the village often is determining who is the responsible party. Mortgages, Albertson said, are frequently difficult to track since they are passed along from bank to bank.

"The reason for this ordinance is so we know who to contract to get it fixed," Albertson said.

To establish its initial list of distressed properties, the village anticipates hiring a firm that specializes in identifying the owners of and lenders for vacant properties.

The ordinance would also give the village the right to inspect registered homes monthly and to clean then up or repair them if violations are found. The village could then place a lien on the property to recover the clean-up cost.

Also on Thursday, Councilman Mike Forster will lead a discussion regarding the status of Islamorada's legal department. The council had been debating whether to replace the Coral Gables-based Weiss Serota law firm with staff council. But the issue has faded since a Feb. 8 workshop in which Councilwoman Deb Gillis was tasked by her colleagues with researching the scope of work of the village attorney's office. At the time, Gillis she said expected the job to take about a month.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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