Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2015

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Las Vegas working on way to curb blight of foreclosure


Sam Morris / FILE

Local governments are dealing in different ways with owners that won’t maintain homes, like this one with a neglected pool, after foreclosures.

To combat the glut of blighted, vacant homes plaguing its neighborhoods, Las Vegas is working to create a registry to monitor foreclosed properties and hold their owners accountable for their upkeep.

A proposed ordinance would set up a program that would require owners of vacant properties that have gone into foreclosure to register with the city and hire a property maintenance company to provide “a limited level” of ongoing maintenance.

“The problem we’re having is once a property is in foreclosure and the borrower has vacated the property, the property isn’t being properly maintained,” code enforcement manager Mike Bouse said. “That lack of maintenance is creating problems … some are becoming health hazards, they create opportunity for illegal acts and crimes, they affect property values of adjacent properties.”

The ordinance would require banks or other institutions taking over foreclosed homes to inspect and secure the properties, maintain the landscaping, keep pools clean and remove any litter on the site. Failure to comply could result in civil or criminal misdemeanor charges.

According to Bouse, 80 percent of foreclosed properties in Las Vegas are vacant, and about half of those vacancies are owned by lenders. In August, Bouse said more than 300 properties in the city went into foreclosure and became vacant.

“(The ordinance) provides a useful tool for code enforcement … in terms of helping maintain these properties,” he said.

The program would be funded by a one-time $200 registration fee charged to property owners of the vacant homes.

Bouse said the city has held meetings with local and national banks, credit unions and Realtors to craft the ordinance, which is modeled on similar laws in cities across the country.

The issue was discussed Tuesday morning at the City Council’s recommending committee meeting and was approved for a final vote by the full council on Dec. 7.

The bill was initially brought up at a recommending committee this month, but was delayed to make some changes to address concerns from bankers and Realtors, as well to clarify questions raised by council members, city spokesman Jace Radke said.

Councilman Steve Ross, who is sponsoring the bill, said vacant homes are becoming a blight on neighborhoods and he hopes other local governments will follow the Las Vegas’ lead in monitoring these properties.

“The city of Las Vegas is the epicenter of this nightmare … It’s something we need to take care of and do the best we can as a government,” Ross said. “Any resident (can) drive through a beautiful neighborhood and easily pick out foreclosure after foreclosure because properties are in disrepair.”

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