Greenacres to consider fees on foreclosed properties at meeting Monday

Councilman Jonathan Pearce says Greenacres needs to join other cities in requiring banks to register foreclosed properties and pay an annual registration fee, half of which would be paid to the city.

Pearce's idea for a foreclosed property registration program was shot down by other members of the council when he proposed it in August of 2010. He plans to propose it again Monday, when the city council is scheduled to discuss the budget for the year that begins Oct. 1.

"It's a nice little tool to help out local government," Pearce said. "If we would have done this two years ago, we'd have been ahead of the curve."

Pearce said he will ask the council to try the program for 15 months, then evaluate it.

He estimates the foreclosed property registration fees, which would be split between the city and the Federal Property Registration Corp., would generate $100,000 or more annually for the city and would help the city's code-enforcement staff track down the parties responsible for maintaining foreclosed homes.

When the council refused to consider Pearce's proposal two years ago, Michael Grimm, the city's chief building official, noted that only 3 percent of the foreclosed properties in Greenacres had maintenance problems. The registration program, Grimm noted in a 2010 memo, would require the other 97 percent to register and pay a fee, even though they have no maintenance problems.

Council members also were concerned in 2010 that the additional fee would be passed on to buyers, making it harder to sell foreclosed homes.

Mayor Sam Ferreri said he is studying the registration program and will be looking for information from the Building Department about the number of foreclosed properties in Greenacres and whether code enforcement needs help tracking down the lenders responsible for maintaining them.

"It will be an interesting discussion," Ferreri said.

Palm Beach County uses the FPRC registration program. It requires banks to register foreclosed properties in unincorporated areas of the county through the company's website — www.vacantregistry.com — and pay an annual fee of $150.

The county receives $75 for each registered property and so far has collected about $700,000, said Kurt Eismann, director of the county's code enforcement division. The county is using money generated by the registration program to correct health and safety problems, such as missing pool fences, at abandoned and foreclosed homes.

"Even though they're registered, it's like pulling teeth to get people out to take care of these properties," Eismann said.

Lake Worth requires banks to register foreclosed properties with FPRC and pay a $150 annual fee. So far this year, 612 Lake Worth properties have been registered, generating $45,900 for city coffers, said William Waters, director of community sustainability.

Boynton Beach has used the FPRC registration program since 2010 and has three-fourths of the city's foreclosed properties registered and paying $200 annual fees, said Diane Springer, code-compliance coordinator.

"The information provided by FPRC helps us identify the correct entity to cite, so compliance is achieved quicker," Springer said. "We're getting letters to the proper people."

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