WASHINGTON — Montgomery County is hardly immune to the glut of vacant, foreclosed homes that exist in the state of Maryland, but the county council is hoping a bill that passed unanimously last week will help put more of those homes on the market.
The bill still needs County Executive Ike Leggett’s signature, though a veto seems unlikely.
The bill’s aim is to get foreclosed properties on the state’s registry. Councilman Tom Hucker, who was a state delegate when the legislature passed a law giving the county this authority, said banks that own these homes are often slow to get homes on the registry in order to avoid paying transfer and property taxes.
“There (are) over 500 empty homes that are just left there to rot in our neighborhoods,” Hucker said. “They’re owned by national banks. We can’t make the national banks sell the property.”
But Hucker argues when the banks hold on to these homes, it exacts a toll on the neighborhoods that surround them and the first responders who serve them.
“They attract crime,” said Hucker. “They attract homeless people and squatters. They sometimes attract people who go in there to have a drug party. They’re twice as likely to be a case of arson.
“One reason we need these people to register with the state foreclosed property registry is so first responders know who to contact if anything goes wrong with the property. But some of these national banks have been deliberately skipping out on the foreclosure registry because it allows them to skip out on the county’s transfer tax.”
But now banks that don’t meet the 30-day deadline to get those properties registered could be fined as much as $1,000 per day by the county.
“We can’t do everything,” said Hucker. “But that’s one thing we ought to be doing, giving them an incentive to get it back on the market and issuing the fines.”