Abandoned Homes Must Be Maintained

The governing body voted on a new ordinance that would force property owners to take care of empty homes. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – With nearly 300 vacant homes in the township, the governing body voted on a new ordinance that would put the burden on banks to ensure that the abandoned structures do not become a blight or affect surrounding property values.

If there is a default on a mortgage payment, the mortgagee (which is usually a bank) would be responsible for registering the property with the township and would indicate whether the property is vacant, said Council President Heather deJong during a recent Township Council meeting.

“This ordinance allows us to start fresh with a new approach, specifically be developing a registry of properties in the foreclosure process,” she said.

The registry would be for properties that have been vacant for more than 30 days, or have had a

cancellation of utility or service, whichever occurs first.

If the house is vacant, the bank would be responsible for designating a property manager to inspect, maintain and secure the property every 30 days, deJong said.

The registry would include the name and contact information for the mortgagee and for the property manager, and the physical location of the property manager during business hours.

The only exception is if an owner could demonstrate that the property has been used as a part-time residence, a seasonal home or as a rental unit.

When a property is added to the township registry, the bank would pay a non-refundable semi-annual registration fee of $500 to offset the cost of registration enforcement, code enforcement, and other related purposes, deJong said of the ordinance.

If the foreclosed structure is not registered, the township may take action to ensure compliance and/or place a lien on the property.

The new ordinance also addresses vacant properties that are not in foreclosure. Within 10 days of the property becoming vacant, the owner must register the structure with the township registry. They must supply their name, contact information, and if applicable, the name and contact information of the property manager and their physical location during normal business hours.

The property managers must ensure that the property is kept free of weeds, overgrown brush, dead vegetation, trash, junk, debris, building materials, newspaper flyers, or any other items that give the appearance that the property is abandoned, deJong said.

A second reading and public comment will be held at the next council meeting, which will be on Tuesday May 22 at 7 p.m.

In other news, the governing body authorized Township Business Administrator Joanne Bergin to purchase bulk electricity and/or natural gas in an online auction.

“When it comes to electricity, the market moves quickly and prices frequently change,” said Bergin after the meeting. “In order to get the optimal pricing, the council needed to authorize me to sign the contract when the price is right.”

The authorization is for the procurement for electricity accounts and street lights, she added.

The township would be in a position to enter into a contract with the lowest responsive bidder or bidders at the conclusion of the auction.

The township’s energy broker, Concord Energy, would conduct the online auction and would consult with Bergin to approve a contract with the selected vendor.

The township would not enter into a contract with a vendor unless there is a cost savings, officials said.