Nationwide, one out of every five homes in foreclosure are abandoned — equating to a total of 170,000 abandoned homes, according to recent studies. Florida accounts for 33% of that figure, or about 55,000 abandoned homes. Florida cities, in fact, represent 85 out of the top 100 cities based on total number of owner-vacated foreclosures. Lee County’s city of Cape Coral is #13 on that list, with over 2,200 owner-vacated foreclosures.
To combat the security problems that can arise from vacant homes and the potential blight on neighborhoods and communities, counties and municipalities across Florida have responded by passing Abandoned Property ordinances. These ordinances place registration, inspection and maintenance obligations on lenders during the mortgage foreclosure process. Lee County recently passed its Abandoned Property Ordinance, which took effect January 2014:
When Registration is Required for Lenders
The lender obligations under the ordinance are triggered in a number of instances, but most commonly, lenders will need to register their properties when either a notice of foreclosure is filed or a notice of default is given to the property owner. Lenders should be cognizant that a mere default letter to the borrower — without filing a foreclosure lawsuit — requires the lender to register the property.
Additionally, lenders who have acquired title through a deed in lieu of foreclosure or a foreclosure sale are required to register their respective properties, even if they held title prior to January 1, 2014 – i.e., lenders who acquired title prior to the ordinance’s enactment are not exempt.
The ordinance does not distinguish between commercial and residential properties. For example, a commercial lender who has provided a notice of default to a property owner or who has acquired title through a foreclosure sale is required to register the property with the County. Nor does the ordinance distinguish between institutional lenders and private lenders.