NEW PORT RICHEY — The hardest part about getting owners of foreclosed and abandoned homes to keep their properties clean and safe? Figuring out who is in charge.
Pasco officials hope to better track owners by establishing a new requirement for banks and other mortgage holders to register with the county within 10 days of filing a foreclosure. Commissioners got their first look Tuesday at a proposed ordinance that would create such a registry.
Other area governments, including Hillsborough and the city of Tampa, have also established foreclosure registries.
In Pasco, the registry information would have to include a local 24-hour contact number and a local agent. Owners would also be required to perform monthly inspections of their properties.
Annual registration fees in Pasco would be $250 per foreclosed property. Hillsborough, by contrast, charges $100 a year to register properties.
Whether the program would be managed by the county or a private contractor will be decided later.
The number of open foreclosure cases in Pasco has exceeded 14,000, and it's a common sight in many neighborhoods to see streets filled with vacant homes, many of them with broken windows, overgrown yards or other signs of neglect.
Pasco officials say they would enforce the registry requirements through warnings and, then, county court citations.
If the proposed ordinance passes, the clock would begin running on new foreclosures in December. Owners of existing foreclosed homes would have until February to register.
County attorney Jeff Steinsnyder said code enforcement citations have not been helpful for the thousands of vacant and abandoned homes.
It "works if you have a defendant you can serve," he said.
"Hopefully this ordinance will give us a step in the right direction," said Commissioner Michael Cox, who asked the county attorney's office to draft the proposal.
The final hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for Nov. 16 in Dade City.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.