Foreclosures become neighborhood burdens

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Hot Foreclosures for Under $150,000
It's open house for great real estate steals. See how much home can you buy for the money, especially with these well-priced foreclosures in cities across the U.S.
Top Picks: Foreclosures for Under $150,000
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Hot Foreclosures for Under $150,000

It's open house for great real estate steals. See how much home can you buy for the money, especially with these well-priced foreclosures in cities across the U.S.

Top Picks: Foreclosures for Under $150,000

Foreclosure Search: 7-Day Free Trial to Foreclosure Listings

__________________________________________________

Browse Over 2.8 Million Home Listings


Buyers' Market: $150,000 | $250,000 | $350,000 | $450,000

Not long after the house next door to Amy Selheimer's just outside the Newark, Del., city limits went through foreclosure, she approached a civic association member about its increasingly unkempt yard.

Selheimer was told that she and her neighbors could take turns mowing the lawn, so that's what she and a neighbor did. They also mulched and kept a car parked in the driveway to deter vandals, until a real estate agent took over upkeep of the property.

Across the USA, neighbors, homeowner association leaders and public officials are finding themselves cleaning up the mortgage-crisis mess, literally, as houses fall vacant during transition to a new owner.

Fallout from the foreclosure crisis is forcing neighbors and local officials to research who is legally responsible for mowing the lawn, cleaning the swimming pool, etc.

If the mortgage lender or the legal owner is an out-of-state or international entity, the responsibility falls to whomever has been hired locally to manage the property, said Daniel Crane, Massachusetts undersecretary for consumer affairs.

"It's a huge issue for us. It's more complicated than it might seem outwardly," said Elisabeth Shurtleff, public information officer with the Nevada Department of Business & Industry. Nevada had the nation's highest state foreclosure rate in April, 3.6 times the national average of one in every 519 households, according to RealtyTrac Inc. in Irvine, Calif., which compiles monthly foreclosure data. "It's definitely a problem finding out who would be responsible and what the statutes provide for that responsibility. It's quite complex, especially the way financing has evolved over the years," Shurtleff said.

"We're hearing more and more about it," said Bruce Tunell, deputy superintendent of the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions. Arizona's foreclosure rate was the third highest in the nation in April, according to RealtyTrac.

Vacant homes also become health and public safety concerns, said Peter Kristian, president of Community Associations Institute in Alexandria, Va., and also general manager of Hilton Head Plantation Property Owners' Association in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Standing water in swimming pools, the danger of houses being stripped for materials, like copper piping and aluminum siding, and invasion by vermin are issues faced by communities.

Often, the first responders are concerned neighbors, who haul their lawn mowers next door. But that carries risk. Being a good neighbor is also, legally, trespassing, said Donald Isken, a real estate lawyer in Wilmington, Del.

"I always tell people, if you can avoid the self-help remedy, then you can reduce your exposure to personal liability for property damage," Isken said.

In some cases, homeowners' associations have the authority to do the remedial work necessary, said Isken. But the process to allow the association on the property takes time, "so the neighbors have to live with an eyesore," Isken said.

In California, homeowners must deal with the local authorities, said Russ Heimerich, spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs. California had the second highest state foreclosure rate in April. "There's no easy fix," he said.

Massachusetts is attempting to help local governments in the commonwealth with a statewide database of foreclosed properties that includes contact information for the lender and the party that has been hired to manage the property, Crane said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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