• Posted On: April 28, 2015

How Better Code Enforcement Can Help You Win in the Fight Against Zombie Home Properties

A national home mortgage crisis led to high numbers of home foreclosures. Hardly a metropolitan area remained unscathed by the collapse. The good news is that the housing market is coming back to life. But the rebound didn’t come soon enough to save many properties in densely populated cities. No one doubts that city governments were overwhelmed during the worst years of the crisis, yet more efficient code enforcement might have prevented the rise of what have come to be known as “zombie” properties.

The borough of Queens, New York is one example of what happens when the code enforcement process simply moves too slowly. In that borough, close to 200 homes were vacated during the home mortgage crisis. No one took responsibility for the properties. The homes went uncared for and were allowed to become derelict shells. Some reports suggest that another 100 plus homes had been abandoned before the crisis and were likewise allowed to sink into disrepair.

For homes that were abandoned during the foreclosure epidemic it was sometimes unclear just who was responsible for any needed repairs or upkeep. Zombie homes attract homeless squatters, criminals and criminal activity and other undesirable signs of life.

Realtors discussing the plight of zombie homes in NYC tell stories that make city managers, neighbors and code enforcement officers overwhelmed. In one outrageous situation, someone decided to operate a floral business in an abandoned property. The illicit business not only avoided paying rent but also stole electricity. It took court action and a lot of money to finally evict the under-the-radar florist.
In the case of Queens, there were 6,000 housing notifications issued between 2013-2015. Approximately 20 percent of the properties were abandoned the first time a notice was received. Realty experts say that within 30 days of being vacated, homes can become zombie properties – devoid of healthy life and instead inhabited by every sort of unwanted activity.

As a city manager you can prevent zombie properties from increasing in number in your town. Empowering citizens to report abandoned properties and vacant homes where unsavory activities are taking place is an important first step. After that, you need to ensure that code enforcement officers can take necessary action as swiftly as possible. Software that makes it quick and easy to record problems, issue warnings and report to the court will speed up action on vacant properties.

At Comcate we understand the issues and pressures of city government. We make it our job to provide software solutions that relieve those pressures and give positive solutions to sticky issues – like zombie properties. Contact us and see how our code enforcement software can help your city avoid fighting a zombie property war.

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