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April 17, 2014

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Neighbors seek answers in dealing with vacant homes

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Steve Marcus

Environmental specialist Robert Cole examines a pool at a foreclosed home in 2010.

As foreclosures and vacant homes sweep across the valley, they bring a rash of problems residents are becoming more and more familiar with.

Unkempt lawns, green pools and squatters are becoming common problems, and on Wednesday night, residents in Henderson gathered to learn how they can combat these issues.

The city’s Neighborhood Services Department hosted a community meeting where residents could ask utility officials, code enforcement officers, police officials and a lawyer about maintaining vacant homes and how to get banks or delinquent homeowners to pay their fair share for the work.

The meeting was targeted at residents in homeowners associations, which account for about 70 percent of all Henderson homes, and was attended mostly by HOA board members and community managers.

Questions ranged from whether the city will turn on water service to keep yards green at vacant homes — yes, if the HOA pays for it — to how to handle a squatter living next door.

While the experts agreed homeowners association have the right to perform maintenance on vacant homes, getting the responsible party to pay for that work can be difficult.

Homeowners who move out of a house may not realize they’re still responsible for their dues, and banks that have taken over foreclosed homes often delay paying the costs associated with upkeep, attorney John Leach said.

Often the costs fall to other dues-paying homeowners in the community, but the associations do have rights when charging for these bills, Leach said.

“Banks need to be held accountable,” he said. “They are responsible from the day the gavel goes down and they purchase the home at a foreclosure sale. From that day forward, the bank has a duty to mitigate the appearance of that lot and pay assessments.”

Les Ratliff owns a home in the Mountainside community in Henderson, and although the neighborhood hasn’t been as hard hit by foreclosures as others, he said, it still sees many of the problems discussed at the meeting.

He said property owners need to be held accountable when a house becomes run down.

“I understand it’s a tough economy, but someone has to be responsible,” said Ratliff, who sits on the community’s board. “We can’t afford to saddle the rest of the community with that burden.”

Henderson Neighborhood Relations Manager Barbara Geach said her office gets lots of calls from homeowners associations asking what their rights and responsibilities are when it comes to vacant homes.

“So we got a panel of experts to answer them,” Geach said.

The information from Wednesday’s meetings will be sent out by mail to homeowners associations and posted online at the Neighborhood Services Department’s website.

Anyone with other questions can call Neighborhood Services at 267-2000.

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  1. Do banks have any incentive to take care of or sell homes?

    I have a feeling someone is making money by not selling and not taking care of properties that defaulted during the banking sub-prime loan scandal.

    It's a shame because there are REAL people who loved and lived there - now their American dream has been crushed.

  2. The City of Henderson should do the right thing and allow free water on these homes....it only keeps up the City of Henderson. Why let your City go to pot just cause you don't have the brain to do the right thing? The people of Henderson deserve to have the water to Mai tain and stop the blight from dragging down the neighborhood.

  3. The swimming pools should be drained and covered. Standing water is an invitation for mosquitos to breed.

  4. When a Homeowner walks away and the Bank chooses not to foreclose, or even allows the homeowner to occupy without immediately foreclosing to make their books look better, it is still the banks responsibility the HOA gets paid. Florida HOA's are winning their cases and taking posession of the properties from the Banks and putting the properties up for sale. All over Las Vegas Valley you can identify these homes by the Dead Trees. They are like billboards to attract problems, with as usual our County Commissioners Out To Lunch.

  5. It shouldn't be that much money to clean up the front and backyard of a home. It's a one day job except it takes awhile to drain the pool. The banks that own the property should pay and have it cleaned up. Or have the hoa do it and put a lien on it for more than what is costs them to do it. They do it anyways. 500-750 bucks a home I'm guessing to clean it up and make it presentable. As far as watering, water is pretty cheap, turn it on and bring the houses back to life.