Effective Communication-Code Enforcement and the Servicing Industry
Published in March/April 2008 REOMAC Update Magazine
By Robert Klein
Statistics abound about how much property values drop when defaulted and REO properties fall into disrepair. This is why the mortgage servicing industry and other investors spend millions of dollars annually keeping properties in their portfolios up to code and in good repair. In many instances, even actively managed REO properties experience code violations resulting from weather damage, vandalism and other unexpected events.
One of the greatest challenges in effectively dealing with code violations has been the inability to create an effective communication channel between local code enforcement officials and the servicing industry.
Typically, when code enforcement personnel issue a violation, the violation is sent to the owner of record on file with local recorders’ offices. It is too common that this information is either out of date, or lacks accurate contact information so that violations can be brought to the attention of the right person and addressed in a timely manner. Even when the right entity is on record, the contact information may be incomplete or inaccurate. As a result, code violation notices can wind up in the wrong city, with the wrong department, and even worse, in a waste basket with piles of junk mail.
Over the past few years, the field services industry has worked diligently to address this issue on behalf of its clients. Prompt notification of code violations and timely remediation is essential in addressing property damage to prevent further deterioration and community blight. At Safeguard, we have actively developed a working partnership with thousands of code enforcement officials in cities across the country to eliminate this communication gap. Rather than sending notices to the entity on record when code violations occur on vacant properties, we have asked them to notify us, and in turn, we have identified the right contact, whether the property was in our client portfolio or not.
This approach has provided two advantages. First, it has given us an early alert about code violations on our clients’ properties, allowing us to address issues in a timely manner to prevent further property damage. Second, it has allowed us to help our colleagues in the industry, with a courtesy contact to the responsible party to make them aware of violations so they can engage their own inspection and maintenance process.
It is one example of how the mortgage field services industry works cooperatively to raise the level of service we all provide to our clients, and maintain the integrity of properties and neighborhoods across the country.
Recently, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) added a Property Preservation Resource Center to its web site (www.mortgagebankers.org/propertypreservation). Through this site, code enforcement officials nationally can obtain property preservation contact information for mortgage service companies to facilitate the process when code violations come to their attention. It also provides a link to the MERS Servicer Identification System to identify parties responsible for specific properties. This service is an invaluable resource for code enforcement officials and mortgage servicers nationally to further open the lines of communication.
By working together to identify and address property violations quickly and effectively, we can all be more effective in maintaining the quality and integrity of vacant properties, helping our clients achieve faster and more valuable sales, and preserving neighborhoods for homeowners and their families.
Robert Klein, a long time REOMACTM member and supporter, is CEO of Safeguard Properties, Cleveland, OH, the largest privately held mortgage field services company in the U.S.