It is not “news” to report that the national recession has taken its toll on homeowners in the form of foreclosures. Even a casual observer can see that Petaluma is also suffering from the foreclosure tsunami.
In some of Petaluma’s neighborhoods, more and more homes are sprouting bank foreclosure notices…
or “”For Sale” signs–sometimes two…
Unoccupied homes can become an eyesore if they are not maintained or, even worse, they can become an attraction for vandals or squatters. In some cities, squatters have moved in and established utilities, thus living rent-free until discovered. Since banks take forever to put a property up for sale, squatters can live for up to 18 months before being evicted. For a TIme article on the situation in Stockton, Ca. (Click Here)
Fortunately, things have not gotten this bad in Petaluma. However, I do wonder if we may have more vacant homes than homeless people.
There is something you can do to help prevent a problem developing with an unoccupied home in your neighborhood.
City Code Enforcement
If there is a property in your neighborhood that you think is becoming a problem, you should contact Code Enforcement…
- Go to their Web Page and click on the link titled “On-line Complaint/Violation Form” (Preferred Method of Contact)
- In the alternative, call the Code Enforcement Complaint Line at 707-778-4469
If you suspect drug and gang activity, call the Police Department directly at 707-778-4372.
If you have general questions, you can also contact Code Enforcement by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Citizen reporting is essential, as City staffing levels do not permit pro-active enforcement. The identity of those making inquiries or complaints is not disclosed. They “… have no problems being the bad guy, so you don’t have to. Due to our lack of staffing, we may not be able to address every complaint right away, but we will get to it…Keeping your neighborhood clean and maintained is one of the best ways to deter crime and keep your property values up.”
As an aside, while this article focuses on coping with problems with unoccupied houses, you should also contact Code Enforcement if you have concerns about a house that is occupied.
When to Report
If something does not look or seem right, feel free to contact Code Enforcement or the Police Department as outlined above. Some signs to look for include…
- Overgrown vegetation
- Weeds that haven’t been cut or pulled
- Piles of junk, trash and garbage.
Recently, a vacant home purchased in foreclosure was being remodeled for resale. The contractors left the house unattended with the front windows and garage door open–for two days. It was an open invitation for mischief. Fortunately, a neighbor decided to call the police on the second night and they came out and secured the property.
Another current case involves a vacant foreclosed property with open windows, curtains blowing outside the window, and an unsecured garage door. In addition, newspapers, flyers and new phone books can be observed littering the front sidewalk…
In closing, keep in mind that even when a complaint is addressed by the City, there are usually additional delays because the process of identifying the owner (usually a bank) is quite cumbersome. In some cities, such properties have become so numerous they have initiated legal action against the banks.
Let’s hope it does not come to that in Petaluma…