City of Saginaw Foreclosure Ordinance

Sec. 1.  Findings and Purpose

The Saginaw City Council finds, determines and declares that:

(1)  Buildings that remain vacant and unoccupied for any appreciable period of time become an attractive nuisance to children, a harborage for rodents, an increased fire hazard, and an invitation to derelicts, vagrants and criminals as a temporary residence and as a place to engage in illegal conduct, frequently including illegal drug-related activity; that unkempt and unsecured grounds surrounding such buildings invite the dumping of garbage and trash thereon and the congregation of unauthorized persons who use the property for illegal activity; that such buildings contribute to the growth of blight within Saginaw, necessitate additional governmental services and costs, significantly interfere with the use and enjoyment of neighboring properties, and depress market values of surrounding properties, thereby reducing tax revenues; and that such buildings accordingly create an unhealthy and unsafe condition affecting the public and constitute an unreasonable use of property and a public nuisance.

(2)  Protection of the public health, safety and welfare requires the establishment and enforcement of the means by which such nuisance conditions may be prevented and abated.

(3) Vacant properties that are going through or have been through the foreclosure process are frequently the responsibility of banks, lenders, and/or servicers.

(4)  Properties in default and Real-Estate Owned (“REO”) properties are at a greater risk of becoming unmaintained vacant properties than other properties.

(5) Even one vacant property that is not actively and well maintained, monitored and managed can cause blight and crime.

(6)  It is in the interest of the welfare of neighborhoods in Saginaw that banks, lenders, and/or servicers which fail to maintain vacant properties that they own or have an interest in be subject to the imposition of fines.

Sec. 2.  Definitions

For the purposes of this chapter:

(1) “Beneficiary” means the current beneficiary (either the original beneficiary or the assignee(s)), including, but not limited to, a lender, under a note secured by a deed of trust.

(2) “Beneficiary’s Designated Agent” means an entity, including, but not limited to, a servicing company, that has contracted with the Beneficiary to perform duties related to the note secured by a deed of trust, including, but not limited to, the collection of installment payments on the note and administration of any default and foreclosure process.

(3) “Days” means calendar days.

(4) “Evidence of Vacancy” means any condition visible from the exterior of the property that alone or in combination with other existing conditions would lead a reasonable person to believe that the property is vacant.  Such conditions include, but are not limited to, overgrown and/or dead vegetation; unmaintained pools or spas; an accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers and/or mail; past due utility notices and/or disconnected utilities; an accumulation of trash, junk and/or debris; the absence of window coverings such as curtains, blinds and/or shutters; the absence of furnishings and/or personal items consistent with residential habitation; statements by neighbors, passersby, delivery agents, and/or government employees that the property is vacant.

(5) “Legal Owner” means the person or entity having record title to the property as shown in the county recorder’s office.

(6) “Legal Owner’s Designated Agent” means an entity, including, but not limited to, a servicing company, that has contracted with the Legal Owner to perform duties related to the property.

(7) “Neighborhood Standard” means those conditions that are present on a simple majority of properties within a 300 foot radius of the relevant property.  A Property in Default or a REO Property that is Vacant or shows Evidence of Vacancy within a 300 foot radius of the relevant property shall not be counted toward the simple majority.

(8) “REO Property” (“Real-Estate Owned” Property) means a residential property within the City of Saginaw for which title has transferred to the Beneficiary or Beneficiary’s Designated Agent, including, but not limited to, a lender or servicing company, as the result of a foreclosure sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure.

(9) “Responsible Party” means the Legal Owner of an REO Property  and/or the Legal Owner’s Designated Agent.  In the event that there is more than one Responsible Party for a single property, each Responsible Party shall be jointly and severally liable for compliance with the provisions of this ordinance.  The Saginaw County Land Bank Authority shall not be considered a responsible person for purposes of this ordinance.

(10) “Vacant” means property that is unoccupied by the Legal Owner or by persons with the consent of the Legal Owner for a period of more than 30 days.

Sec. 3.  Registry

The City of Saginaw shall maintain a registry of the properties described in subsection (1) in order to permit the City to determine which properties are at risk of becoming subject to and/or in violation of Section 4 of this ordinance, and to inspect such properties for compliance with Section 4 of this ordinance and any other applicable requirements.  The city of Saginaw shall regularly inspect registered properties, at times and in a manner to be determined by the Saginaw Code Enforcement and Neighborhood Improvement Co-Operative (SCENIC).  SCENIC may, within its discretion, inspect all registered properties or a sample of such properties selected randomly or by criteria determined by SCENIC.

(1) Application.

The registration requirements contained in this section shall apply to all REO Properties.

(2) Registration.

The Responsible Party for a REO Property shall register the property with the City Clerk’s Office within 30 days of the transfer of title or, if the title was transferred prior to the effective date of this ordinance, within 30 days of the effective date of this ordinance.

Registration shall be filed on City of Saginaw-approved forms which shall require the following information, as well as any additional information deemed necessary by the City Clerk’s office:

(a) The name and mailing address of the Responsible Party, and whether the party is the Beneficiary, Beneficiary’s Designated Agent, Legal Owner, or Legal Owner’s Designated Agent.

(b) A direct contact name and phone number for the Responsible Party.

(c) Whether the property is Vacant or shows Evidence of Vacancy.

(d) If the property is Vacant or shows Evidence of Vacancy: a statement describing the expected period of vacancy, a detailed plan for the regular maintenance of the property during the period of vacancy, and a timeline for the lawful re-occupancy of the property or for the rehabilitation or demolition of the property.

(e) If the property is Vacant or shows Evidence of Vacancy and the Responsible Party is located more than 30 miles outside of the Saginaw city limits: the name, street address, telephone and facsimile number of a local property management or property preservation company responsible for the maintenance and security of the property.

(3) Updating the registry.

Any change in the information provided to the registry including, but not limited to, a change in the identity of the Responsible Party, a change in the vacancy status of the property, and any change in contact information, shall be provided to the registry within 10 days of the date of the change.

(4) Annual renewal.

The initial registration shall be effective for the duration of the calendar year in which it is made.  For any registered property that is still subject to the registration requirements of this section on January 1 of each year, the Responsible Party must submit a renewed registration by no later than January 31 of that year.

(5) Fees.

The Responsible Party shall pay a fee set by action of the Saginaw City Council to cover the costs of the registry including, but not limited to, initial creation of the registry; ongoing maintenance of the registry; inspection and investigation of registered properties to ensure that the information recorded in the registry is current and accurate; inspection and investigation of registered properties conducted by SCENIC to ensure that they have not fallen into disrepair or are otherwise not in compliance with the requirements of Section 4 and/or any other applicable requirements; and the administrative costs incurred in determining the appropriate fee.  These costs shall be determined annually by the City of Saginaw.

This fee shall be paid with the initial registration and with each annual renewal.

(6) Penalties.

Any Responsible Party that fails to comply with the registration requirements of this section shall become personally responsible for a penalty of $100 per day for each day of non-compliance; except that commencing 10 calendar days after the date of the City Clerk’s notification of failure to comply, the penalty shall be $500 per day for each day or non-compliance; with a maximum total penalty of $100,000.

If the City Clerk’s Office determines that a Responsible Party has failed to comply with the registration requirements of this section, the City Clerk’s Office shall notify such party within 10 days of this determination at the last known address as provided in (section of municipal code dealing with service of notices and orders) of the failure to comply with this section, the penalties currently due, and the daily accrual of penalties.

A Responsible Party shall be liable for interest on any unpaid penalties accrued at the same annual rate as civil judgments.

Any penalty proceeds collected by the City Clerk’s Office shall be deposited in the General Fund.

The Saginaw City Attorney shall be authorized to bring suit in a court of competent jurisdiction on behalf of the County 30 days after a fine has been first assessed by the Clerk or SCENIC.

(7) Terminating registration.

If a registered property becomes no longer subject to the registration requirements of this section, the Responsible Party shall report this information to the registry within 10 days.

Sec. 4.  Inspection, Maintenance, Security, and Posting Requirements

(1) Application.

This section shall apply to all properties that are REO Properties.

A Responsible Party that presents the City Clerk’s Office with documentary evidence that it does not have the legal right to inspect, maintain, secure, and/or post on the property, where such evidence is accepted as adequate by the City Clerk’s Office, shall be exempt from the requirements of this section.

(2) Inspections.

The Responsible Party for a property subject to this section shall perform an inspection of the property no less than once every 7 days to ensure the property is in compliance with this section.

(3) Maintenance.

Properties subject to this section shall be, in comparison to the Neighborhood Standard, kept free of weeds, dry brush, dead vegetation, trash, junk, debris, building materials, any accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers, notices (except those required by federal, state, or local law), discarded personal items including but not limited to furniture, clothing, large and small appliances, printed material or any other items that give the appearance that the property is Vacant.

The property shall be maintained free of graffiti, tagging or similar markings by removal or painting over with an exterior grade paint that matches the color of the exterior of the structure.

Visible front and side yards shall be landscaped and maintained to the Neighborhood Standard.  Landscape includes, but is not limited to, grass, ground covers, bushes, shrubs, hedges or similar plantings; and decorative rock, bark or artificial turf/sod designed specifically for residential installation.  Landscape does not include weeds, gravel, broken concrete, asphalt, decomposed granite, plastic sheeting, mulch, indoor-outdoor carpet or any similar material.  Maintenance of yards includes, but is not limited to, regular watering, irrigation, cutting, pruning, mowing and removal of all trimmings.

Pools and spas shall be kept in working order so the water remains clear or free of pollutants and debris or drained and kept dry.  In either case properties with pools and/or spas must comply with the minimum security fencing requirements of the State of Michigan.

(4) Security.

Properties subject to this section shall be maintained in a secure manner so as to not be accessible to unauthorized persons.

Secure manner includes, but is not limited to, the closure and locking of windows, doors (walk-through, sliding, and garage), gates and any other opening of such size that it may allow a child to access the interior of the property and or structures(s).  In the case of the broken windows securing means the reglazing or boarding of the window.

(5)  Posting.

Properties subject to this section shall be posted with a contact number individuals can call to report blighted properties to SCENIC.  The posting shall be no less than 18” X 24”, shall be of a font that is legible from a distance of 45 feet, and shall contain, along with the contact number of SCENIC, the words “TO REPORT PROBLEMS OR CONCERNS CALL”.  The posting shall also contain the name and contact information of the Responsible Party, along with the words “IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF THIS PROPERTY.”  The posting shall be placed on the interior of a window facing the street to the front of the property so it is visible from the street, or secured to the exterior of the building/structure facing the street to the front of the property so it is visible from the street or if no such area exists, on a stake of sufficient size to support the posting in a location that is visual from the street to the front of the property but not readily accessible to vandals.  Exterior posting must be constructed of and printed with weather resistant materials.

(6) Additional Authority.

In addition to the requirements of this section, SCENIC shall have the authority to require the Responsible Party for any property subject to the requirements of this section to implement additional maintenance and/or security measures including, but not limited to, securing any door, window or other openings; installing additional security lighting; increasing on site inspection frequency; employment of an on-site security guard; or other measures as may be reasonably required to arrest the decline of the property.

Sec. 5.  Public Nuisances

(1) Public nuisance.

It shall be a public nuisance for any property subject to the requirements of section 4 of this ordinance to fail to comply with any of those requirements.

(2) Notice of violation/demand to abate.

Whenever SCENIC determines that a property is a public nuisance pursuant to subsection (1), SCENIC shall issue a notice of violation and demand to abate directed to the Responsible Party and to the Legal Owner, if the Legal Owner is different than the Responsible Party.

The notice shall contain:

(a)  The street address and such other description as is required to identify the property.

(b)  A statement that specifies the conditions that constitute the violation.

(c) A description of the measures necessary to correct the violation.

(d) An order that the Responsible Party take the necessary measures to correct the violation and abate the nuisance within 10 days from the date of the notice; unless the violation constitutes a violation of any provision of the Michigan Building Standards Code, in which case the notice shall order the Responsible Party to take the necessary measures to correct the violation and abate the nuisance within 30 days from the date of the notice.

(e)  A statement that if the Responsible Party fails to take the necessary measures to abate the nuisance within the specified time period, the Responsible Party will be subject to penalties pursuant to subsection (4), and the City of Saginaw may take all necessary legal or administrative action, including performing the necessary measures, with the cost of such performance to be assessed against the Responsible Party.

(f)  A statement that the Responsible Party may, during the specified time period in which it is ordered to correct and abate, request in writing a hearing before SCENIC regarding the conditions that constitute the violation and the measures necessary to correct the violation.

(g) A notice of the fee due, as provided in subsection (3).

The written notice shall be served on the Responsible Party and Legal Owner either by personal delivery or by first class mail.

(3) Fees.

A Responsible Party to whom the City Clerk’s Office has sent a notice of violation and demand to abate pursuant to subsection (2) shall pay a fee set by action of the Saginaw City Council to cover the costs of the notice of violation and demand to abate including, but not limited to, administrative costs related to the notice; inspection and investigation of properties to determine whether they are public nuisances (other than inspections or investigations conducted pursuant to Section 3 of this ordinance); inspection and investigation of properties subject to a notice of violation and demand to abate to determine whether they have complied with such demand; increased inspection and investigation of properties formerly subject to a notice of violation and demand to abate to ensure that such properties remain in compliance; and the administrative costs incurred in determining the appropriate fee.  These costs shall be determined annually by the City of Saginaw.

(4) Penalty for failure to abate.

Any Responsible Party served with a notice of violation that fails to take the necessary measures set forth in the notice shall become personally responsible for an administrative penalty in an amount up to $1,000 per day for each day of non-compliance after the specified time period set forth in the notice has passed, with a maximum total penalty of $500,000, unless the Responsible Party provides documentary evidence to SCENIC that the structure is the subject of an active building permit for repair, rehabilitation or demolition and the Responsible Party is proceeding diligently in good faith to complete the repair, rehabilitation or demolition, where such evidence is accepted as adequate by SCENIC.

A Responsible Party shall be liable for interest on any unpaid penalties accrued at the same annual rate as civil judgments.

Any penalty proceeds collected by the City of Saginaw shall be deposited in the General Fund.

(5) Abatement by the City of Saginaw.

In the event the violation is not abated within the time specified in the notice, the City of Saginaw may take all necessary actions to abate such violation, and the Responsible Party shall become personally indebted to the City of Saginaw for the actual and reasonable costs of abatement as adopted by the Saginaw City Council at a public hearing.

After the City of Saginaw has taken abatement actions, the City Clerk’s Office shall send a notice to the Responsible Party by first class mail advising the Responsible Party of the abatement action by the City of Saginaw. The notice shall also inform the Responsible Party that he/she is responsible for the actual and reasonable costs of abatement and notify the Responsible Party of the date and location of the public hearing at which the costs will be determined.

(6) Summary Abatement.

If, in the opinion of SCENIC, there exists a specific condition on any property subject to the requirements of this section which is of such a nature as to be an imminent threat to the public health, safety or welfare, the same may be abated by the City of Saginaw forthwith without compliance with the provisions of subsection (2).  The actual and reasonable costs of any abatement measures taken by the City of Saginaw pursuant to this subsection shall be the responsibility of the Responsible Party as provided in subsection (5).

(7) Appeals.

Any person aggrieved by any of the requirements of this section may appeal as provided under (relevant sections of municipal code).

(8)  Judicial Enforcement

The Saginaw City Attorney shall be authorized to bring suit against any Responsible Party that fails to pay accumulated fines within 30 days of the fine being assessed by the City Clerk and or SCENIC.

Sec. 6.  Severability

Should any provision, section, paragraph, sentence or word of this chapter be determined or declared invalid by any final court action in a court of competent jurisdiction or by reason of any preemptive legislation, the remaining provisions, sections, paragraphs, sentences or words of this chapter shall remain in full force and effect.

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