Springfield, Massachusetts Enacts Strict Anti-foreclosure Ordinances by Ann Marie Maccarone by Ann Marie Maccarone

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New ordinances drastically affecting foreclosures and vacant and/or foreclosing properties in Springfield, Massachusetts became effective September 13, 2011. The two ordinances require pre-foreclosure mediation and regulate the maintenance of vacant and/or foreclosing residential properties. The ordinances will be added as amendments to Title 7 of the Code of the City of Springfield, Massachusetts by adding a revised Chapter 7.50 entitled “Regulating the Maintenance of Vacant and/or Foreclosing Residential Properties and Foreclosures of Owner Occupied Residential Properties” (the “Vacant Property Ordinance”) and new Chapter 7.60 entitled “Facilitating Mediation of Mortgage Foreclosures of Owner Occupied Residential Properties” (the “Foreclosure Mediation Ordinance”). The Foreclosure Mediation Ordinance is the first of its kind in Massachusetts and is similar to ordinances enacted in the Rhode Island Cities of Cranston, Providence and Warwick. Both Springfield ordinances impose additional burdens upon lenders and their servicers, as well as fines in the amount of $300 per day for non-compliance with any provisions of the ordinances. $10,000 bonds are now required for vacant and/or foreclosing properties. Both ordinances were approved unanimously by the City Council and signed by Mayor Domenic J. Sarno.

Chapter 7.50 Section 7.50.010 states that the Vacant Property Ordinance was enacted “to provide for the promotion of the health, safety and welfare of the public, protect and preserve the quiet enjoyment of occupants, abutters and neighborhoods, and minimize hazards to public safety personnel inspecting or entering unsecured and un-maintained vacant properties.” Section 7.50.030 requires that any owner of vacant and/or foreclosing property shall notify the building commissioner and the fire commissioner of the status of the vacant property including the length of time the property has been vacant, the estimated time the property will remain vacant, and the nature of the contents of the property. Foreclosing is defined to include delivering the mortgagee’s notice of intention to foreclose to borrowers pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws c. 244 §17B. These notices of intention are sent 90 or 150 days prior to actual foreclosure commencement. The ordinance defines an owner to include a mortgagee as well as a trustee for mortgage backed securities that has initiated the foreclosure process or a person or entity having recorded a complaint to foreclose with the Registry of Deeds.

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