SENATE DOCKET, NO. 840 FILED ON: 1/9/2009
SENATE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . No. 785
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Anthony W. Petruccelli
To the Honorable Senate and House of
Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in General
The undersigned legislators and/or citizens respectfully petition for the passage of the accompanying bill:
An Act regulating the maintenance of vacant and foreclosing resid ential properties.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
In the Year Two Thousand and Nine
An Act regulating the maintenance of vacant and foreclosing residential properties.
SECTION 1. The G eneral Laws are hereby amended by inserting after chapter 244 the following chapter:-
MAINTENANCE OF VACANT AND FORECLOSING RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES
Section 1. Purpose: It is the intent of this legislation to protect and preserve public safety, security, and quiet enjoyment of occupants, abutters, and neighborhoods by (i) requiring all residential property owners, including lenders, trustees, and service companies, to properly maintain vacant or foreclosing properties, and (ii) regulating the maintenance of vacant or foreclosing, residential properties to prevent blighted and unsecure residences. The city’s designated inspector of buildings or buildings commissioner has enforcement authority under section 3 of chapter 143 of the General L aws, the State Building Code, and the local city zoning code.
SECTION 2. As used in this chapter, unless a contrary intention clearly appears, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
“City”, a city or town of the Commonwealth.
“Commissioner ”, a city’s designated inspector of buildings or building commissioner.
“Days”, consecutive calendar days.
“Foreclosing”, the process by which a property, placed as security for a real estate loan, is prepared for sale to satisfy the debt if the borrower d efaults.
“Initiation of the foreclosure process”, any of the following actions: (i) taking possession of a residential property under section 1 of chapter 244 of the General Laws; (ii) delivering the mortgagee’s notice of intention to foreclose to the borr ower under 17B of chapter 244 of the General Laws; or (iii) commencing a foreclosure action on a property in either land court or a county’s superior court.
“Local”, within twenty (20) driving miles distance of the property in question.
“Mortgagee”, the creditor, including but not limited to, service companies, lenders in a mortgage agreement and any agent, servant, or employee of the mortgagee, or any successor in interest or assignee of the mortgagee’s rights, interests or obligations under the mortgage agreement.
“Owner”, every person, entity, service company, property manager or real estate broker, who alone or severally with others:
(1) has legal or equitable title to any dwelling, dwelling unit, mobile dwelling unit, or parcel of land, vacant or otherw ise, including a mobile home park; or
(2) has care, charge or control of any dwelling, dwelling unit, mobile dwelling unit, or parcel of land, vacant or otherwise, including a mobile home park, in any capacity including but not limited to agent, executor, exec utrix, administrator, administratrix, trustee or guardian of the estate of the holder of legal title; or
(3) is a mortgagee in possession of this property; or
(4) is an agent, trustee or other person appointed by the courts and vested with possession or control o f this property; or
(5) is an officer or trustee of the association of unit owners of a condominium. Each of these persons is bound to comply with the provisions of these minimum standards as if he were the owner. However, this ordinance shall not apply to a condominium association created under chapter 138A of the General Laws to the extent that this association forecloses on or initiates the foreclosure process for unpaid assessments due or owing to the association. “Owner” also means every person who oper ates a rooming house; or
(6) is a trustee who holds, owns or controls mortgage loans for mortgage backed securities transactions and has initiated the foreclosure process.
“Property”, any real, residential property, or portion thereof, located in the Commonwea lth, including buildings or structures situated on the property. For purposes of this chapter only, property does not include property owned or subject to the control of a Commonwealth city or any of that city’s governmental bodies.
“Residential Property ”, any property that contains one or more dwelling units used, intended, or designed to be occupied for living purposes.
“Securing”, measures that assist in making the property inaccessible to unauthorized persons.
“Vacant”, any property not currently leg ally occupied and not properly maintained or secured.
SECTION 3. All owners must register vacant or foreclosing properties with the city commissioner on forms provided by the commissioner. All registrations must state the individual owner’s or agent’s ph one number and mailing address located within the Commonwealth as required by section 57D of chapter 59 of the General Laws, section 5.02 of chapter 156D of the General Laws, and 950 CMR 113.20. The mailing address may not be a P.O. Box. This registratio n must also certify that the property was inspected and identify whether the property is vacant at the time of filing. If the property is vacant, the owner or registrant must designate and retain a local individual or local property management company res ponsible for the security and maintenance of the property. This designation must state the individual’s name, phone number and local mailing address. The mailing address may not be a P.O. Box. If the property is in the process of foreclosure, then the r egistration must be received within seven days of the initiation of the foreclosure process, as defined in Section 2. If the commissioner determines that the property is vacant and the foreclosure proceedings have not been initiated, the registration must be received within 14 days of the commissioner’s first citation for improper maintenance.
All property registrations are valid for one calendar year. An annual registration fee of $100 must accompany the registration form. Subsequent annual registrati ons and fees are due within 30 days of the expiration of the previous registration and must certify whether the foreclosing or foreclosed property remains vacant or not.
Once the property is no longer vacant or is sold, the owner must provide proof of sa le or written notice and proof of occupancy to the commissioner.
SECTION 4. Properties subject to this chapter must be maintained in accordance with the relevant sanitary codes, building codes and local regulations. The owner, local individual or local p roperty management company must inspect and maintain the property on a monthly basis for the duration of the vacancy.
The property must contain a posting with the name and 24-hour contact phone number of the local individual or property management compan y responsible for the maintenance. This sign must be posted on the front of the property so it is clearly visible from the street.
Adherence to this chapter does not relieve the owner of any applicable obligations set forth in code regulations, covenant conditions and restrictions, or home owner association rules and regulations.
SECTION 5. The commissioner’s department shall have the authority and the duty to inspect properties subject to this chapter for compliance and to issue citations for any violations. The commissioner’s department shall have the discretion to determine when and how such inspections are to be made, provided that their policies are reasonably calculated to ensure that this chapter is enforced.
SECTION 6. Failure to initially register with the commissioner is punishable by a fine of $300.
If applicable, failure to properly identify the name of the local in dividual or local property management company is punishable by a fine of $300.
Failure to maintain the property is punishable by a fine of not more than $300 for each week the property is not maintained.
Violations of this chapter shall be treated as a strict liability offense regardless of intent.
All monies collected pursuant to this chapter shall be directed to a specific commissioner’s enforcement fund.
SECTION 7. Any person aggrieved by the requirements of this chapter or by a decision issued under this chapter by the commissioner, may seek relief in any court of competent jurisdiction as provided by the laws of the Commonwealth.
SECTION 8. If any provision of this chapter imposes greater restrictions or obligations than those imposed by any o ther general law, special law, regulation, rule, ordinance, by-law, order or policy, then the provisions of this chapter control.
SECTION 9. The commissioner has the authority to promulgate rules and regulations necessary to implement and enforce this c hapter.
SECTION 10. The provisions of this chapter are effective immediately upon passage and all provisions shall be enforced immediately but no monetary fine shall be imposed under this act until 90 days after passage.
SECTION 11. A copy of this ordi nance is to be mailed to all owners of residential property located in the city. In addition, a copy of this ordinance is to be mailed to all loan institutions, banks, real estate offices and management companies located in or having legal or equitable in terest in residential property located in the city.