ANNAPOLIS — A house on East Fourth Street in Frederick that has been in disrepair for the last nine years — with broken windows and doors, and weeds growing from cracks in its brick facade — was highlighted in a House committee hearing on Tuesday.
The city of Frederick has issued 11 notices of violations for the property since 2007, said Zachary J. Kershner, the city’s director of public works.
Today, the problems still persist, in part because it is unclear to the city who can be compelled to make repairs.
“The property is still in some unclear state of foreclosure,” and the state’s property tax database still shows the previous owner, Kershner said.
A bill introduced by Delegate Carol L. Krimm, D-District 3A, aims to require lending institutions to take earlier responsibility for properties in foreclosure.
Right now, state law requires lenders and secured parties to register with the state’s Foreclosed Property Registry and assume maintenance of properties after the foreclosure sale is final and the deed is recorded.
“The problem is that when the bank takes the property from the property owner, there could be many years before a sale actually occurs,” Kershner said.
Krimm’s bill seeks to have secured parties registered when they first file a foreclosure action. It also allows local governments to impose a $1,000 penalty if secured parties fail to register, and expands the ability of local governments to take care of nuisances on foreclosed properties and adding those costs to the tax bill.
“This has been a problem in our city for quite some time ... and it has been very stressful on our code enforcement and our budget in our city,” Krimm said.
The bill is supported by organizations including the Maryland Municipal League, which held a meeting last summer to help cities and towns deal with foreclosure blight.
The Maryland Bankers Association opposed the bill, but acknowledged that such properties are a serious issue for municipalities.
Kathleen Murphy, president and CEO of the Maryland Bankers Association, commended Frederick’s work to address vacant and blighted properties, but said the earlier timeline presents a problem for banks trying to foreclose on a property.
“We don’t own that property ... and our research shows that 80 percent of the properties that go to foreclosure sale still have owners in them,” Murphy said. “They are the owners of the property.”
Alderwoman Kelly Russell said one issue is that banks can take control of properties well before a final foreclosure sale, leading to the problematic deterioration.
If a house sits empty for years, the city may have to pay for repairs rather than using taxpayer money for other causes, she said.
A second Frederick property, 383 Catoctin Ave., was highlighted by the city at the hearing. That house was in disrepair for seven years and the city issued eight notices of violations, including for infestation and a partial roof collapse. The city paid $1,500 for three cleanups at the property to remove grass and weeds and board up the structure, Kershner said.
For now, that property is considered a success story because it was sold and repaired, he said.