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‘Blight court’ option for neglectful Philadelphia property owners

| Nov 14, 2011 | Residential Real Estate |

The mayor of Philadelphia says the city’s empty and under-maintained properties are destroying neighborhood property values. The official has announced a new plan to send noncompliant owners of neglected commercial and residential real estate to “blight court.”

A new Pennsylvania real estate law has given cities permission to seize the assets of homeowners who fail to live up to property codes. Philadelphia is currently home to an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 vacant properties, the owners of which could be subjected to fines and court dates.

Philadelphia’s mayor says the city is moving toward a proactive stance where careless property owners are concerned. The first step is to find out who owns the blighted properties and take them to task. Broken and unusable windows and doors will cost homeowners $300 each for every day they go unfixed. Owners who fail to make changes will be hauled into “blight court” where legal fees would be added on top of the fines.

A study commissioned by officials found that the estimated cost of blight in the city is $8,000 per empty property. The total reduction of property values in Philadelphia neighborhoods is believed to be $3.6 billion.

The head of the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections came up with the idea for blight court. The commissioner said the city would rather see land owners take responsibility for rehabilitating properties than take the owners to court. The city currently owns about 12,000 empty property sites throughout Philadelphia, a figure that may expand if property owners fail to heed the mayor’s latest warning.

Part of the new plan to spruce up lots and homes includes making it easier for interested parties to buy city-owned properties. Under the current system, several city agencies hold titles to properties, which makes buying them a lengthy, discouraging process.

If state legislators approve, Philadelphia officials are interested in creating a land bank to make the buying and selling process less complicated.

Source: philly.com, “Philadelphia cracking down on owners of rundown properties,” Miriam Hill, Oct. 27, 2011

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