Taking Aim at Banks

September 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The City of Fresno is starting to take aim at financial institutions that let foreclosed homes fall into disrepair. Hundreds of homes are all over the city with boards covering the windows. A sign even warns people that this structure is unsafe. On Tuesday, we searched county records and found degrading homes despite being owned by major banks.

A public auction was scheduled for this small apartment complex. But the date has come and gone. Now trash is piling up on the property. Boards cover every window. Neighbors who are too afraid to go on camera say drug users constantly break in and sleep here. We found city records showing the property on East White Ave is owned by Bank of New York.

Juanita Sandoval describes the foreclosed home next door to her house on North Effie Street, "Roaches, mice, graffiti ..." Trash covers the yard. City records indicate it's owned by Deutsche Bank. Both of the properties we just showed you have received notices of code violations. Matthew Lopez with Fresno's code enforcement explains a new city ordinance allows them to fine banks for letting properties fall into disrepair. Lopez said, "If they're foreclosed and not taking care of, then it does lower the cost of the property around that property itself. It also degrades the neighborhood."

As of August 13 of this year, more than 22-hundred homes in the city are in some stage of the foreclosure process. Of those more than 600 are in very bad condition.

Tuesday happens to be the first day for Fresno's new planning director. John Dugan says trashed homes will continue to be a problem until the economy turns around. Dugan said, "It's not our primary responsibility to help people's individual financial situations, but to keep that unfortunate situation from hurting other people."

As of this month, only a few banks have been fined a thousand dollars. Code enforcement reports most banks are acting very quickly once they are notified of problems at their property. So far, no banks have received the maximum fine of $50,000.

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