Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners adopted a new vacant or foreclosed real property registration ordinance. The stated purpose of the ordinance is to “protect neighborhoods and Gwinnett County from deterioration and blight that can be caused by the lack of maintenance of vacant buildings or structures.”
The ordinance defines a vacant structure as real property that has not been lawfully inhabited for at least 60 days and has no evidence of utility usage within the past 60 days, or real property that is partially constructed or incomplete without a valid building permit. Property owners are required to register a property as vacant within 14 days of the property meeting the definition of a vacant real property.
In the case of foreclosed properties, owners have until 90 days after the transfer date to register. However, the registration requirement is waived for deed holders who provide the county with required information within 60 days. Foreclosed property is defined as improved real property held pursuant to a judicial or non-judicial foreclosure. The cost to register a property is $100. Property owners who fail to comply with the provisions of the ordinance can be fined up to $1,000.
The results of the program, Bryan Lacky, director of Gwinnett County’s Planning and Development department said, have been positive.
“I think it has been a success because it’s allowed us to find the responsible party,” he said. “We’re not looking to fine people — that’s not our goal — our goal is to get compliance.”
Addressing issues such as broken windows, uncut grass, downed trees and other property maintenance items result in more attractive properties which are easier to sell, Lackey explained. Getting those properties sold also helps maintain values throughout the affected neighborhoods.
From January 2013 through Oct. 15 of this year, 1,664 vacant structures and 351 foreclosed homes have been registered with the county. The number of registrations, Lackey said, have continued to fall as the economy improves.