When I was first elected in 2005, one of the first calls that I received was from a property owner who was fed up with how bad the house next to her looked. It was an eyesore in the neighborhood and although the community had tried to get someone to make improvements to the property, the owner was an absentee landlord. Although there were some options available to push for enforcement of the city’s code, the homeowner who called me lamented that it was not enough.
Over the past few years, there have been a number of bills that have focused on how to address the issue of blight in our community. It wasn’t until the Neighborhood Blight Reclamation & Revitalization Act was introduced, however, that the effort really got legs. As part of the Senate Urban Affairs & Housing Committee, I was thrilled to see that there was legislation that addressed the issue of irresponsible property owners to whom citations mean little.
While there were some concerns with the language and tweaks that had to be made to the final bill, I was proud to support the product that came out of our committee — and proud to vote for the final bill. Now, that legislation has become law and, finally, communities have more tools available to them to fight the blight in their neighborhoods.
Act 90 of 2010 gives municipalities new remedies against individuals who do not remedy violations of property maintenance codes, including allowing there to be liens on a person’s personal property, to allow the municipality to be reimbursed for funds expended to keep a property in compliance with codes, asset attachment of the owner of blighted property, extradition for out-of-state property owners facing criminal charges and permit denials related to land development if another property is in violation of a code when application is made.
One exception to the law gives some relief to property owners that have recently inherited property that is in violation of code. Additionally, Act 90 allows courts to establish housing courts to deal with matters related to Act 90, laws on blighted and abandoned properties and landlord-tenant issues. It also authorizes the creation of an education and training program on property maintenance code violations for those in the judicial system.
As a realtor, I know that the vast majority of property owners are responsible citizens who take great pride in their homes and property. We all know, however, that there are those individuals out there that choose not to abide by the law. Act 90 now gives communities like the Northside even more tools to enforce and encourage the responsibility of home ownership. I am glad that I was part of it and look forward to continued conversations with you regarding additional ways to fight blight in our communities.