Office of Mayor Domenic J. Sarno
CITY OF SPRINGFIELD BEGINS IMPLEMENTATION OF THE UPDATED VACANT AND FORECLOSING PROPERTY REGISTRATION ORDINANCE
October 21, 2013 -Springfield, MA- Mayor Domenic J. Sarno announced the beginning of the implementation of the City of Springfield’s updated ordinance requiring the registration of vacant and foreclosing properties to protect and preserve public safety, security, and the quiet enjoyment of occupants, abutters, and neighborhoods.
The Property Registration Ordinance (PRO) affects two classes or properties:
All legally vacant residential property (not including seasonally vacant); and,
All residential properties that are in the process of being foreclosed upon, vacant or not.
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno stated; “When Wall Street received a bailout Main Street was left to fend for ourselves. The implementation of this ordinance gives the City a significant tool to hold absentee landlords and irresponsible institutions accountable for the distress that has been wrought throughout the City. These derelict properties become serious public safety issues; be it from arson, drug dens or public health concerns.”
If you are the owner of a vacant property or the institution foreclosing on a property in the City of Springfield; you must, within 30 days of the property becoming vacant or within 15 days of the foreclosure process being initiated comply with the following:
- Fill out the attached registration form, and return it to the Office of Housing, 1600 East Columbus Avenue, Springfield, MA 01103 with a bond in the amount of $10,000; Note that incomplete forms will not be processed, and you will not be in compliance;
- Identify a local property management company or individual if the property is vacant (local is defined as within 20 driving miles of the subject property);
- Provide written notification to the Commissioner and the fire commissioner of the status of such property, including in such notice, the name, address and telephone number of the owner or person in control of the property; the location of the property; the length of time the building has been vacant (where applicable); the estimated time the building will remain vacant (where applicable); and the nature of the contents of the building;
- As may be required by the fire commissioner, file one set of space utilization floor plans for any buildings on said property with the fire chief and one set of said plans with the Commissioner. The owner shall certify space utilization plans as accurate twice annually, in January and July;
- Remove from the property, to the satisfaction of the fire commissioner, hazardous material as that term is defined in Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 21K, as that statute may be amended from time to time;
- At the discretion of the Commissioner, secure all windows and door openings and ensure that the building is secured from all unauthorized entry continuously in accordance with the United States Fire Administration, National Arson Initiative Board up Procedures or provide twenty-four (24) hour on-site security personnel on the property. When a vacant or foreclosing property is located within a complex of buildings owned by a single owner, twenty-four (24) hour on-site security shall be provided within the building or within the complex wherein the building is located;
- Where a property is vacant, post “No Trespassing” signs on the property;
- Maintain the property in accordance with this Chapter, free of overgrowth trash and debris, and pools of stagnant water, and ensure that structures are maintained in a structurally sound condition;
- If the property is vacant, drain all water from the plumbing and turn off all electricity between September 15 and June 15 of each calendar year to guard against burst pipes and fires;
- Maintain the property in accordance with the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code, the Massachusetts State Building Code and all specialized codes incorporated therein, and any Springfield Ordinances concerning the maintenance of property and the Springfield Zoning Ordinances;
- Provide the fire commissioner and Commissioner with the name, local address, and telephone number of a responsible person who can be contacted in case of emergency. The owner shall cause the name and contact number to be marked on the front of the property as may be required by the fire commissioner or Commissioner; and
- Maintain liability insurance on the property and furnish the director with a copy of said certificate of insurance;
Failure to register a property that is vacant or in the process of foreclosure will result in fines of up to $300 per week until compliance is achieved.
The PRO looks to insure that these properties are properly insured, maintained, registered and can adequately fund the cleaning and securing at the owners expense in their absence.
The Vacant and Foreclosing Property Ordinance was signed by Mayor Domenic J. Sarno in 2011 and successfully defended in court by the City of Springfield in 2012. It became the subject of a law suit in U.S. Federal Court and was un-successfully appealed in the U.S. First Court of Appeals in Boston. In his ruling in U.S. Federal Court, Judge Michael A. Ponsor cited; “Widespread mortgage foreclosures undisputedly are an issue of serious public concern to municipalities, like Springfield. The modest effort made by the city to soften this crisis through the promulgation of the two ordinances violates no constitutional provision or state statute.”
At their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, October 21, 2013 the Springfield City Council is scheduled to take up the matter of an appropriation to fund the initial implementation of the Property Registration Ordinance.