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Volunteers help clean up foreclosed property in the US

In some parts of the country where the number of foreclosures are large they are volunteering to tidy up abandoned homes.

They are cutting the grass, mending fences, clearing away rubbish and boarding up windows to prevent the property being trashed.

They are being co-ordinated by City officials who don’t want areas turning into eyesores that drag down the overall value of real estate.

According to the National League of Cities officials are having to take action because more often than not the banks who own the foreclosed properties do nothing.

The main concern is that homes can fall into disrepair and empty properties can attract vandals and criminals.

Property that is not maintained can become an eyesore or scare off potential buyers.

Entire neighborhoods can fall into disrepair, leading to even more costly measures to repair or raze dangerous structures.

But tough action is being taken. In Cape Coral in Florida the city’s code-enforcement officers have become property managers.

Since June 2007, when Cape Coral started tracking foreclosed properties, city workers helped by volunteers who don’t want their area to look unsightly have mowed 5,234 lawns on vacant homes.

Some cities even charge the property owner for the work done and bill the owner although many can’t be contacted.

The main problem is the time lag between when the owner abandons a property that is being foreclosed and when the bank takes over which can be up to a year.

Nearly 350 cities have passed ordinances that include requiring banks and other property owners to do more maintenance and fining them if they don’t, explained Diane Roman Fusco, spokeswoman for Safeguard Properties, a private company that inspects and maintains foreclosed properties nationwide.
In the Boston area volunteers are even trying to help property owners before they lose their homes.

They knock on 40 or 50 doors each week to inform tenants and owners in foreclosed properties that help is available from advocacy and legal aid organizations.