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Tampa creates foreclosed property registry to help city code enforcement

TAMPA — With thousands of homes headed to foreclosure in Tampa, the City Council on Thursday created a registry to force lenders to maintain them.

Vacant, foreclosed properties often become dangerous eyesores with overgrown lawns, broken windows and stagnant swimming pools. They attract crime and contribute to neighborhood blight.

The registry should help curb the problem, said Jake Slater, Tampa's director of code enforcement.

"It's another tool for us to hold the banks and financial institutions accountable," he said.

An ordinance passed unanimously by the City Council requires lenders to register the properties with the city and pay a fee when foreclosure proceedings are started. It also forces financial institutions to maintain and secure the properties.

The amount of the fee, as well as whether the program will be managed by city workers or a private contractor, will be decided in about two months.

Fees could be used to step up code enforcement efforts or clean up neglected properties, said city attorney Chip Fletcher.

Hillsborough County, which established a similar program in November, charges $100 a year to register properties.

City housing officials say about 7,000 properties in Tampa are in some stage of foreclosure. About 1,440 are in banks' hands, and 955 are ready for sale by auction at the courthouse.

Attaching a $100 registration fee to all those properties would add $700,000 to dwindling city coffers.

"It's not an insignificant amount of money, but it's also not an insignificant problem," Fletcher said.

Spencer Kass, owner of Landmarc Realty in West Tampa, urged council members to kill the ordinance.

"The fees will get passed through to borrowers," he said.

And Kass questioned whether it's fair to hold the banks responsible before the foreclosure process is completed.

"I have a real constitutional question about ordering someone to maintain a property when they don't own the property," he said.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Tampa creates foreclosed property registry to help city code enforcement 12/17/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 18, 2009 12:03am]
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