Mowing the lawn may be an awful chore, but imagine having to pay a fine for not cutting the grass of a house from which you were evicted.
David Englett of Crowley, Texas is being charged after he didn’t pay a series of Arlington city fines for, among other things, not mowing the lawn of a home he had already lost to foreclosure, local news CBS 11 reports (h/t The Consumerist). Englett had also been fined for owning an alarm without the necessary permit and for a fence in bad shape.
Although it’s possible Englett isn’t responsible for the infractions, don’t be surprised the city of Arlington is giving it a try. “You have to remember cities are all about grabbing money from you,” CBS 11’s legal advisor Jerry Loftin said . “They try anyway they can.”
Property maintenance and associated fines have become a complicated legal area during the foreclosure crisis. Millions of homes have been abandoned at a time when cash-strapped cities have come to see fees as an attractive way to close budget gaps. Maintaining abandoned properties is also of importance for any city that hopes to make the best of struggling housing market.
In New York City, for example, banks have reclaimed some 2,000 homes with property violations, amounting to 3,700 fines, according to a survey by state Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), cited by the New York Daily News. In hundreds of cases, those banks have refused to pay up. Deutsche Bank is the greatest offender, owning 211 properties with open fines. U.S. Bank, meanwhile, reportedly has yet to pay some $40,000 worth of fines to the city, according to the same report.
It’s not just New York. Towns across the country are getting increasingly serious about property maintenance violations. In the past two weeks alone, the Connecticut towns of Stonington and Woodbury have proposed blight ordinances in addition to Bellows Falls, Vermont. Meanwhile, the town of Rocky Hill, Rhode Island, is considering increasing the severity of the blight ordinance violations it already has in place.
Even at the federal level, the cost of owning real estate is getting higher. In 2010, the government paid $30.7 billion to maintain the 3.3 billion square feet of property it owns, up from $29.2 billion in 2009, according to a recent report from the General Services Administration, the Federal Times reports.