Maryland mulls foreclosure property registry
A group of Maryland officials says the state should create a foreclosure registry that would allow local governments to track the condition of real-estate owned properties. The Maryland Foreclosure Task Force said these municipalities often don't know whom to contact about foreclosed properties, with their drag on surrounding neighborhoods a particular concern. The proposed online portal would remain private from the general public, the group said, aside from requests for information by neighbors. Gov. Martin O'Malley formed the foreclosure task force in August 2011, and appointed government, legal and real estate officials to the group. The task force released its recommendations in a report Jan. 11. Legislation has not yet been introduced, though group members testified Wednesday at a House Environmental Matters Committee. The statewide registry would likely be the first of its kind, said Michael Halpern, director of community initiatives for Safeguard Properties. He said the company is aware of about 700 registry ordinances nationwide, and the lack of uniformity creates headaches. "They're all doing it independently, and they all have their own forms and their own timeframes and their own fee structures," Halpern said. "Having 50 state registries definitely is preferable to having hundreds if not thousands of local city registries." The foreclosure registry would require contact info for the foreclosure buyer and a property manager, as well as whether the home is occupied or vacant. The buyer or agent would update the entry once the deed is filed. The task force said any registry should also require an initial fee, though members did not reach a consensus on the issue. The fee would likely cover costs of development and upkeep of the registry, though some members want higher fees to go toward code-related property maintenance. Any registry should also include a function to map foreclosed properties, the task force said. The group also said Maryland should allow local governments to enact tax credit incentives for the purchase of foreclosed properties. At least two other states have or are considering standardization of registries. A Connecticut law, which went into effect Oct. 1, requires registration with a town clerk at the start of a foreclosure, as well as a $100 fee. In Georgia, a bill would create uniform rules for foreclosure registries created by local governments, including a $175 limit on registration fees. The state House passed the bill, and the Senate sent it back to committee Jan. 11. Maryland saw foreclosure actions on 3,251 homes in the third quarter 2011, declines of 27.9% from the second quarter and 76.9% from a year earlier according to RealtyTrac. Those actions include notices of default or foreclosure sale, as well as new REO properties. Write to Andrew Scoggin. Follow him on Twitter @ascoggin.