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UPDATE – August 17th,¬†Anti-Blight Bill Passes Legislature, Heads to Governor’s Desk

May 7th, 2012 – Penalty fees for failure to maintain vacant homes have brought $1.5 million into the City of Rialto since 2008. John Dutrey, housing code enforcement manager, is happy to say that that source of revenue is half of what it once was.

“The civil penalties have worked in getting banks and realtors to maintain foreclosed properties and get into compliance,” said Assemblymember Wilmer Amina Carter, whose 62nd District includes Rialto. Her bill, AB 2314, will ensure that cities continue to have that tool and others to fight neighborhood blight due to foreclosures.

AB 2314 was passed by the State Assembly on May 3 and is headed to the Senate Floor. Carter is one of several legislators who have introduced bills in partnership with Attorney General Kamala Harris. The combined package of bills is called the “Homeowners Bill of Rights.”

The measure eliminates the sunset date on existing statutory authority that allows cities to impose penalties up to $1,000 for failure to maintain vacant residential property. The measure also provides new owners of blighted property a 60-day grace period in which enforcement actions are prohibited as long as repairs are being made to the property.

Foreclosed properties are often marked by overgrown yards, heaps of trash and broken windows. The disrepair encourages blight and brings down property values. Vacant properties also become a magnet for squatters, gangs and drug dealers.

“We need to stabilize these communities,” Carter said. “Unblighted properties make for safer, cleaner neighborhoods.”

Additional provisions of AB 2314 are a requirement that banks that release liens on foreclosed property inform local code enforcement agencies of the release so that demolition of severely blighted property can proceed. In addition, AB 2314 also allows costs of a receivership over blighted properties to be imposed directly against the owner of blighted property.

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