United Trustees Association (UTA) Education Conference

November 7-10

Las Vegas, NV

The 40th Annual United Trustees Association (UTA) Education Conference brought together members to address current legal, legislative, and operational issues trustees are facing. Safeguard’s Director of Community Initiatives Michael Halpern was honored to participate as a panelist on the community session. The session summary is below.

Municipal Distressed Property Ordinances Obstacles & Realities

Moderator: Michelle Mierzwa, Esq., Wright Finlay & Zak

Panelists:

Randy Newman, Esq., Total Lender Solutions
Michael Halpern, Safeguard Properties
Kevin Hamilton, BRON, Inc.

Overview
The panel addressed the commonalities and differences of municipal distressed property ordinances across the country. The panelists covered topics including the evolution of vacant property registration ordinances, property liens and fines, how trustees are defined, and compliance issues.

Evolution of Vacant Property Registration Ordinances (VPRO)
Panelists shared a synopsis of the evolution of VPRO across the country with a focus on the west coast. As trustees, these organizations are often required to register and are held liable for failure to do so. Registration and other requirements of the ordinance are often beyond the contractual scope the trustees operate under.

Lack of Understanding
Cities are implementing legislation intended to provide the municipalities with the correct points of contact for a property. However, it is unclear to municipalities who they should be contacting. Since the trustees are listed on the county records, municipalities assume this is the proper point of contact, but in actuality they should be contacting the servicer.

It is important that the servicing industry continues its efforts to help educate and make clear the process of addressing issues at a municipal level. Continuously being a resource to municipalities and providing transparency can help offer clearer guidance. 

Need for Open Communication
Though most jurisdictions have been cooperative in compliance efforts by the industry, others have not which has resulted in excessive fines for non-compliance. Michael Halpern advocated for greater transparency and open communication between the proper parties.

Property Liens and Fines
Panelists moved on to discuss the legal challenges to ordinances in Springfield, MA and Chicago, IL along with the increase of VPRO that require a foreclosure bond.

Defining the Role of Trustees
The session concluded with Randy Newman discussing the United Trustees Association (UTA) efforts to formulate and advocate for a legislative solution to protecting the trustee’s interests by clearly defining their role and mitigating their exposure.

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