California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday forcing owners of foreclosed and vacant homes to maintain the property or face up to a $1,000 fine per day of violation.
The bill, A.B. 2314, is part of the Homeowner Bill of Rights, a slew of new legislation drafted and introduced through state lawmakers with the assistance of California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
The latest enacted bill gives local governments the ability to impose up to a $1,000 fine for code violations. It must give owners, including banks, at least 14 days to start fixing the alleged violation and 30 days to complete the correction before issuing the fine.
One of the violations includes "not failing to take action to prevent mosquito larvae from growing in standing water or other conditions that create a public nuisance." A woman in Studio City, Calif. recently diagnosed with the West Nile virus traced the contraction to mosquitoes breeding in a nearby foreclosure's neglected swimming pool.
The new bill could be costly for careless owners of these homes. Fannie Mae, for example, owned more than 10,000 REO properties in California as of June 30, according to its latest financial filing.
If an investor or homeowner buys a property that was foreclosed on at any point since Jan. 1, 2008, the local government must give at least 60 days to remedy any violations found since taking title. The law does give room to provide less time "if deemed necessary."
The gross vacancy rate in California was above 10% in California, down a full percentage point since the foreclosure crisis struck, according to the latest Census Bureau figures. It's still above the 8.6% rate at the start of the housing bubble in 2005.
"We need solutions to the problem of blight which threatens the health and safety of California communities hit hardest by the mortgage crisis," said Assembly member Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto, who introduced the bill. "AB 2314 will ensure that local jurisdictions continue to have the tools to prevent and fight neighborhood blight due to foreclosures."
The state passed each of the Homeowner Bill of Rights legislation this summer. Gov. Brown signed two into law in July, giving new protections for borrowers and prohibiting the practice of robo-signing and foreclosing on borrowers being considered for a modification.
"The foreclosure crisis has had a devastating impact on many families and communities," AG Harris said in a statement Monday. "This legislation will help victims of the crisis who remain in their homes, but have been forced to endure the negative economic, health and safety consequences of blight in their neighborhoods."