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Foreclosure registry sought to track disrepair in homes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County may create a registry of foreclosed properties, an effort aimed at forcing lenders to maintain them instead of letting them spoil neighborhoods.

On a motion from Commissioner Ken Hagan, the County Commission decided Wednesday to draft an ordinance requiring a foreclosure registry.

Those who file foreclosure on a piece of property would be required to pay a fee. The charge, likely in the $100 to $150 range, would pay for inspections meant to ensure a home isn't falling into disrepair.

"The goal here is to protect our neighborhoods," Hagan said.

Similar programs have cropped up in other counties, and state lawmakers are considering legislation to do essentially the same thing. Hagan said that without local control and oversight, a state program is likely to be ineffective.

Creating a fee system should allow Hillsborough to pay for the program without passing the costs on to taxpayers. Commissioner Kevin White sought assurances that would be the case.

The proposal passed 5-0, with White and Commissioner Jim Norman out of the room when the vote took place. An ordinance will be drafted and come back within about 45 days.

Hillsborough County has thousands of homes in foreclosure or that have otherwise been abandoned. In some areas, clusters of empty homes sit with overgrown lots, broken windows or other signs of neglect.

Some are taken over by vagrants.

"The point is to just stabilize the neighborhoods that are experiencing a lot of foreclosures," said County Attorney Renee Lee.

Lee said the program may be extended to any abandoned properties, which could present some challenges to track. Foreclosed properties are easier to track because lenders have to file a court notice before beginning legal action.

Bill Varian can be reached at varian@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3387.

Foreclosure registry sought to track disrepair in homes 03/04/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 5, 2009 12:13am]
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