Officials work toward countywide foreclosed property registration

PDS staff, working closely with the Kenton County Attorney’s staff, is proposing a county-wide foreclosed vacant properties registration ordinance. If approved by the Fiscal Court, the ordinance would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of code enforcement throughout Kenton County.

The resulting registry would save tax dollars for Kenton County’s 20 local jurisdictions by requiring properties that are in the foreclosure process to name a responsible party to maintain the vacant property. It would also go a long way toward precluding frustrations felt by owners of properties neighboring foreclosed sites, according to Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director.

Vacant foreclosed properties drag down property values in otherwise well-kept neighborhoods. An estimated 1,100 properties throughout Kenton County were in foreclosure during 2015. Most of these properties sat vacant and unmaintained through all or part of the foreclosure process. The proposed ordinance provides code enforcement officials with a mechanism to require that these properties be maintained to reasonable standards while in foreclosure.

PDS staff provides code enforcement staff for 16 of Kenton County’s 20 local governments. Although the other four pursue other means for code enforcement within their jurisdictions, they would still benefit from the proposed ordinance since its coverage would be countywide.

Foreclosed vacant properties registration ordinances have been proven a useful tool for other communities both in the metro region and across the country. In developing the proposed ordinance, PDS staff sought information from communities which have adopted vacant property registration programs.

“The benefit at the office level is allowing faster turnaround times for property clean up,” said Joseph Parson, Planning/Building Inspector for the City of Morehead, which enacted a vacant property registration ordinance in 2011.

The City of Cincinnati issued a report two years after adopting that city’s vacant foreclosed property registration which details the changes in code enforcement effectiveness before and after adoption. It states that prior to adoption of the ordinance, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of foreclosed properties degraded in condition during the foreclosure period. Within the first year after adoption, only ten percent of foreclosed properties degraded in condition. That number dropped to 4.5 percent in the second year of enforcement. Those are “compelling numbers” according to Gordon.

The cost of administering the proposed ordinance will fall entirely to the banks and lending institutions responsible for maintenance of these foreclosed properties. Registration will also reduce costs related to code enforcement activities by increasing staff efficiency in dealing with vacant, foreclosed properties.

“Requiring a local contact for these properties will allow us to contact a person who has the authority to address issues such as tall grass or maintenance violations in a timely manner” says Rob Himes, PDS’ codes administrator. “Under the current system, code enforcement officials’ only option is to mail a violation letter to a faraway lending institution, which rarely yield results.” 

At the request of Kenton County Fiscal Court, PDS has reached out to the municipalities to determine if this ordinance would be of benefit to them.

Contact Emi Randall, Director of Planning & Zoning Administration, or Rob Himes, Codes Administrator, at 859.331.8980 for more information.