[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Haverhill as indicated in article histories. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Article I Vacant and Foreclosing Residential Properties
[Adopted 6-4-2013 by Doc. 63]
It is the intent of this article to protect and preserve public safety, security, and quiet enjoyment of occupants, abutters, and neighborhoods by requiring all owners and those in possession of residential, commercial and industrial property, including lenders, trustees, and service companies, to properly maintain vacant and/or foreclosing properties, regulating the maintenance of vacant and/or foreclosing, residential properties to prevent blighted and unsecured residences.
The Health and Inspection Services Department and the Building Inspector shall oversee the program and shall have enforcement authority pursuant to, inter alia, MGL c. 143, § 3, the State Building Code, and the Zoning Code of the City of Haverhill.
When used in this article, unless a contrary intention clearly appears, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
- City of Haverhill.
- Consecutive calendar days.
- 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 defaults.
- INITIATION OF THE FORECLOSURE PROCESS
- Taking any of the following actions:
- A. Taking possession of a residential, commercial, or industrial property pursuant to MGL c. 244, § 1;
- B. Delivering the mortgagee's notice of intention to foreclose to the borrower pursuant to MGL c. 244, § 17B; or
- C. Commencing a foreclosure action on a property in either the Land Court or Superior Court.
- Within 20 driving miles' distance of the property in question.
- 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 and/or assignee of the mortgagee's rights, interests, or obligations under the mortgage agreement.
- Every person, entity, service company, property manager or real estate broker who alone or severally with others has legal or equitable title to any property or has care, charge or control of any property in any capacity, including but not limited to agent, executor, executrix, administrator, administratix, trustee or guardian of the estate of the holder of legal title; or is a mortgagee in possession of any such property; or is an agent, trustee or other person appointed by the courts and vested with possession or control of any such property; or is an officer or trustee of the association of unit owners of a condominium. Each such person is bound to comply with the provisions of these minimum standards as if he/she were the owner. However, this article shall not apply to a condominium association created pursuant to MGL c. 183A to the extent that such association forecloses on or initiates the foreclosure process for unpaid assessments due or owing to the association. "Owner" also means every person who operates a rooming house or is a trustee who holds, owns or controls mortgage loans for mortgage-backed securities transactions and has initiated the foreclosure process.
- Any residential, commercial and industrial real property, or portion thereof, located in the City of Haverhill, including building or structures situated on the property.
- RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY
- Property used, occupied or intended primarily for residential purposes.
- Any methods or means that assist in making the property inaccessible to unauthorized persons.
- Any property not legally occupied for a period of more than 90 days. The term "vacant," as used herein, shall not include residential property where the legal owner or occupant is away for a period of time, such as on vacation, and plans to return to the property.
All owners shall register vacant and/or foreclosing residential, commercial, or industrial properties with the Building Inspector on forms provided by the Building Inspector. All registrations must state the owner's or agent's phone number and mailing address. The mailing address may not be a post office box. This registration must also certify that the property was inspected by the owner or agent and identify whether the property is vacant at the time of filing. If the property is vacant, the owner or agent shall designate and retain a local individual or local property management company responsible for securing and maintaining the property. This designation shall state the individual's or company's name, phone number, and local mailing address. The mailing address may not be a post office box. If the property is in the process of foreclosure, then the registration shall be filed within seven days of the initiation of the foreclosure process as defined in § 122-2 above. If the Building Inspector determines that the property is vacant and that foreclosure proceedings have not been initiated, the registration must be received within 14 days of the Building Inspector's first citation for improper maintenance.
All property registrations are valid for one year. An annual registration fee of $250 payable to the Health and Inspection Services Department, must accompany the registration form. The fee and registration are valid for the calendar year, or remaining portion of the calendar year, in which the registration was initially required. Subsequent registrations and fees are due January 1 of each year and must certify whether the foreclosing and/or foreclosed property remains vacant.
Once the property is no longer vacant or is sold, the owner must provide proof of sale or written notice of occupancy to the Health and Inspection Services Department.
The duly appointed personal representative of any estate having control and/or ownership of any property subject to the terms of this article shall not be required to comply with this article for a period of 120 days after the issuance of letters of authority by the Probate Court and shall not be subject to the payment of the registration fees in any event. Inspectional Services may waive the registration fee when a property owner is able to demonstrate that the paying of said registration fee would be a financial hardship.
Properties subject to this article must be maintained in accordance with all applicable sanitary codes, building codes, and local regulation. The local owner or local property 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 twenty-four-hour contact phone number of the local individual or property management company responsible for the maintenance. This sign must be posted on the front of the property so it is clearly visible from the street. The Building Inspector may, in his discretion, waive the posting requirement contained in this section, but only if:
The property which is the subject of the foreclosure is occupied as a residential property.
The property owner, foreclosing mortgagee, or the lawful representative of either serves a written request upon the Building Inspector to waive the posting. Such written request shall be made at the time the registration requirements under this article are otherwise being performed and shall specifically state the reason(s) for which the waiver is requested.
The requesting party has complied with all provisions of the article to which the property is otherwise subject.
The waiver, if granted by the Building Inspector, shall be only for the period of time between the initiation of the foreclosure process as defined in this article and the completion of the foreclosure process by sale or otherwise.
In the event that the property which is the subject of the foreclosure proceeding is vacant at the initiation of foreclosure, as defined herein, or the property has become lender-owned as a result of the foreclosure proceeding, the posting requirements contained herein shall not be waived by the Building Inspector.
Adherence to this section does not relieve the property owner of any applicable obligations set forth in Code regulations, covenant conditions and restrictions and/or homeowners' association rules and regulations.
The Health and Inspection Services Department and Building Inspector shall have the authority and the duty to inspect properties subject to this article for compliance and to issue citations for any violations. The Health and Inspection Services Department and Building Inspector 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 section is enforced.
Failure to register with the Health and Inspection Services Department shall be considered a violation of this article and is punishable by a fine of up to $300. Each week that such violation continues shall be considered a separate offense.
Failure to identify the local individual or local property management company shall be considered a violation of this article and is punishable by a fine of up to $300. Each week that such violation continues shall be considered a separate offense.
Failure to maintain the property shall be considered a violation of this article and is punishable by a fine of up to $300. Each week that such violation continues shall be considered a separate offense. Any expenses incurred by the City of Haverhill relative to securing or maintaining property shall be recoverable by placing a lien on the property.
Violations of this article shall be treated as a strict liability offense, regardless of intent.
In the event the above fines are imposed and remain unpaid in excess of 90 days, the City may place a lien upon the property to recover the unpaid fines, plus any other amounts which may be due and owing.
Any person aggrieved by the requirements of this section or by a decision issued under this section by the Health and Inspection Services Department or Building Inspector may seek relief in any court of competent jurisdiction as provided by the laws of the commonwealth.
If any provision of this section imposes greater restrictions or obligations than those imposed by any other general law, special law, regulation, rule, ordinance, order, or policy, then the provisions of this section control.
The Health and Inspection Services Department has the authority to promulgate rules and regulations necessary to implement and enforce this section.
If any provision of this article is held to be invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, then such provision shall be considered separately and apart from the remaining provisions, which shall remain in full force and effect.
The provisions of this article are effective immediately upon passage, and all provisions shall be enforced immediately, but no monetary fine shall be imposed pursuant hereto until 90 days after passage.
There is hereby established a revolving fund, the proceeds of which are to be used for the securing, repairing or maintaining of vacant and/or distressed properties and the hiring of personnel to administer and enforce this article. All revenue collected under the provisions of this article shall be placed in said revolving fund. This revolving fund shall be kept separate from all other moneys by the City Treasurer and shall be expended by the Director of Inspectional Services, as needed, with approval of the Mayor. Any monies expended shall be recoverable by placing a lien upon the property. Any expenditures from this fund for reasons other than those stated above shall be by appropriation recommended by the Mayor and approved by the City Council.