12 April 2012

Housing Neglect Leads to Aggressive Tactics by Township

Story first appeared on AnnArbor.com

Over the last two years, the local Ypsilanti Township attorney has written dozens of letters to banks and lending institutions that have neglected homes in the township that they own through foreclosure.  The letters typically alert banks that the township is proceeding with legal action against them for letting the properties fall to disrepair and creating public safety hazards.

But the abject conditions at a home at 952 S. Grove Street owned by Royal Bank of Scotland subsidiary Citizens Bank led him to be more blunt in his letter.  The township would like to know exactly what is your problem with RBS maintaining property that it owns in our community?

In a letter to RBS outlining issues at the property and informing it the township is taking legal action, the Township attorney questioned how the bank could let the house “rot” and become a public health and safety threat, a shelter for vagrants and teeter on the verge of collapsing.  He noted that the redemption period expired on June 30, 2011, and the house has clearly received little attention from the bank.  A recently used stick of butter and other food can be seen by looking in the home’s back door, indicating that it is being used despite its blighted and rotting interior.

Among other issues:
The walls and floors are saturated with cat urine.
The floors and subflooring are rotting through in several spots.
The house is infested with mold and sewer discharge was discovered in the basement.
Separation and cracks in the walls and ceiling indicate structural failure.
The foundation wall is crumbling.
The roof has collapsed in several locations.
Several garages are partially collapsed.

The township is asking a Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge to order the house repaired or demolished. In many cases bank officials do not respond to township requests for action.

If the township is forced to demolish the house, it would ask the judge to order compensation from the bank. If the bank still fails to reply, a lien is placed on the property.

Neighbors have reported seeing people use the house on shelter and try to monitor the situation, and it has been highlighted that it is RBS’s legal responsibility to keep the house secured.  Their failure to do so has had a negative impact on the adjacent property owners and neighborhood in general.

The township has mounted an aggressive campaign to address blight in its neighborhoods, which have seen the highest rate of foreclosures in Washtenaw County in recent years.

Increasingly, officials are finding banks or other lending institutions, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are responsible for neglecting homes for which they now own the deed. They have are considering new ordinances and working with the U.S. Rep.'s office to seek relief at a federal level.

For more real estate related news, visit the Commercial and Residential Real Estate Market Blog.

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