Broward County is ground zero for foreclosures with an estimated fifty percent of all single family homes “under water” according to Lori Parish, the Broward County Property Appraiser. With Foreclosure cases in Florida taking an average of two and a half years in court, and 688,000 foreclosure cases currently pending in Florida, there is a lot of vacant property. Once a lender determines that they do not want ownership of a property, usually because it is in disrepair, the lender instructs their attorneys to stop the foreclosure case and the law suit will just sit on the court’s docket with no activity for years on end. Until the case finishes and the court issues a deed to the property back to the bank, the lender is not legally obligated to maintain the property. As neither the bank nor the owner in foreclosure was willing to maintain the property, put the burden on local cities to board up the houses and cut the grass at tax payer expense. As the owner had already abandoned the home, they did not care if the city filed a code enforcement lien against it for the maintenance costs.
It did not seem like there was a solution.
The Broward County Revenue Collector came up with a plan that forces the banks to pay for the maintenance the city is performing on these abandoned properties by converting the maintenance costs into a non-ad valorem tax (user fee). The banks are forced in the tax bills to repay the city for maintaining these nuisance properties. Mortgages that had escrows are required to pay the property taxes. If property taxes are not paid, then the County can foreclose themselves, wiping out the mortgage, and giving a tax deed to a new owner.
In Broward, the cities of Hallandale Beach, West Park, Deerfield Beach, Lauderhill, Pembroke Pines, Sunrise and Tamarac have passed the necessary ordinances to participate in this program. All others cities which desire to do this can enact the enabling ordinance this year to begin this lot maintenance/nuisance abatement tax as of 2013 in their cities.