The issue of unkempt properties has plagued our communities since the housing bust. Presently, the city Sanitation Department can go on properties and clean them once they have been given a particular status. While I am pleased with this change in regulations, more needs to be done.
Sanitation addresses properties with garbage but does not address those with unkempt grass or weeds. These properties must be addressed, too. Often half-built properties and those in foreclosure do not have garbage but grass or weeds 3 feet high.
This is my proposal:
1. Sanitation advises property owners or the bank that a property is unkempt — failure to cut grass or remove weeds, trim hedges that block sidewalks, etc. — and gives the owner 10 to 15 business days to comply.
2. If they do not comply, the city Department of Finance will assess a surcharge on the next quarterly property tax bill, with the percentage amount to be determined. That surcharge will be used to pay for the expenses of having the property maintained on a monthly basis by a private landscaper, a contract given via a request for proposals.
3. This surcharge can be removed once the property owner or bank can show proof that a landscaper has been hired to address future cleanups or submits a signed affidavit with the name of the person who will maintain the property.
It is in the city’s interest to do this. The banks that have interest in these properties continue paying taxes even when the homeowners fail to pay their mortgages and the escrow for the taxes. The surcharge will be a higher tax and the city would not have to worry about how to collect for the cleanup.
Community Board 8