Glens Falls, NY Set to Begin Eminent Domain Proceedings

On May 27, the Glens Falls Post-Star published an article titled City to use eminent domain to pressure banks to clean up foreclosure properties.

City to use eminent domain to pressure banks to clean up foreclosure properties

GLENS FALLS   The city of Glens Falls will initiate eminent domain proceedings on abandoned, run-down homes in the mortgage foreclosure process as a tactic to get banks to fix broken windows, mow lawns or work with city officials to sell the properties.

“If we threaten that we’re going to take them (houses) and turn them to over to the (city) Urban Renewal (Agency), maybe they’ll (banks) send someone out to fix a broken window,” said 3rd Ward Councilwoman Jane Reid, a lawyer.

Reid said the goal is to get the attention of bank officials who have been unresponsive, and establish contact so city officials can speak with them about properties in derelict condition and about programs city community and economic development agencies can use to assist the banks with selling foreclosure properties.

“If we can get direct communication … that would speed up the process,” said Mayor John “Jack” Diamond, at a Common Council workshop on Tuesday.

“The banks we are dealing with here are not local banks, obviously,” Reid said.

Reid said there is little expectation the city would succeed with lengthy eminent domain proceedings.

City officials hope banks would be willing to negotiate out-of-court settlements, Diamond said in a follow up interview Wednesday at City Hall.

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows governments to take private property if the land is transferred for public use. Government must pay fair market value for the land that is taken.

Blight is one of the reasons that can be used to take property.

Eminent domain is one of two tactics Common Council members informally agreed to pursue at the workshop meeting on solutions to so-called “zombie properties,” which are homes that are deteriorating and unkempt during the foreclosure process.

The city also will compile GIS maps, lists of code violations and documentation of foreclosure status to submit in August for a new state program that addresses zombie properties.

“So we have two tracks,” said 5th Ward Councilman James Clark, who initiated the workshop meeting.

Under the new state “Best Practice Agreement” program, 11 banks and mortgage companies have agreed to secure vacant houses, replace or board up windows, eliminate safety hazards and post bank contact information on the property.

The bank will then monitor the property and maintain it to comply with state maintenance code.

Municipalities can begin submitting properties to the new state database in August.

Reid said state maintenance code is not as stringent as city building code.

The state code, for example, only requires grass to be mowed when it grows higher than 10 inches, she said.

One reason city officials have had trouble getting the attention of banks is that the city has relatively few foreclosure properties, in comparison with other cities, said Councilman at-Large Dan Hall.

Common Council members have identified 26 foreclosure properties in the city, as of Jan. 14.

There is at least one property in every ward in the city.

“We’re all impacted by it,” Clark said.

Diamond said Wednesday he will release the list as soon as his staff verifies the addresses and foreclosure status of properties and whether properties have code violations.

Under state law, property owners are responsible for the maintenance of their properties. Banks and mortgage companies are not required to maintain vacant and abandoned properties until they receive a judgment of foreclosure, which can take three years or longer, said EDC Warren County President Edward Bartholomew.

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About Safeguard 
Safeguard Properties is the mortgage field services industry leader, preserving vacant and foreclosed properties across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Guam. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Safeguard provides the highest quality service to our clients by leveraging innovative technologies and proactively developing industry best practices and quality control procedures. Consistent with Safeguard’s values and mission, we are an active supporter of hundreds of charitable efforts across the country. Annually, Safeguard gives back to communities in partnership with our employees, vendors and clients. We also are dedicated to working with community leaders and officials to eliminate blight and stabilize neighborhoods. Safeguard is dedicated to preserving today and protecting tomorrow.  Website: www.safeguardproperties.com.

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