CABOR Shares Thoughts on REALTORS® and Vacant Property Registrations
Recently, the Cleveland Area Board of REALTORS® (CABOR) released recommendations for municipalities to consider prior to enacting or amending vacant property legislation.
With more than 26,000 vacant homes in Cuyahoga County, it is no surprise that there are roughly 20 cities in Cuyahoga County with some type of Vacant Property Registration Ordinance (VPRO) either on the books or pending action by city council.
“In addition to the negative impact vacant homes can have on any given neighborhood, we are finding that many REALTORS® are concerned about what their liability is when listing a vacant home for sale,” said CABOR Chairwoman Joanne Zettl.
As an association, CABOR does believe it is appropriate – and expected – that a city exercise its policing power to insist on the exterior upkeep of all homes in its jurisdiction. However, this should not be confused as support for any inspection tied to the sale of a home.
“ If a city believes that enforcement of maintenance codes already on the books and/or a systematic exterior inspection of all properties within in its jurisdiction is not enough to ensure the health, safety and general welfare of a neighborhood, then CABOR recommends that certain points are considered before a VPRO is proposed,” Zettl said.
- The VPRO should clearly state what properties are subject to its provisions and what exactly triggers a property registration. Clarity will allow for fairness and alleviate due process concerns.
- If a property owner is actively listing a property for sale or rent; or is undergoing active construction, rehabilitation, renovation or repair, CABOR recommends associated registration and fees be waived. Associated fees for a registration and/or property maintenance do not exceed the actual cost to the city.
- REALTORS® should not be liable under any VPRO. It is customary and usually fair for a property owner or occupant to bear legal responsibility for ensuring that a property complies with maintenance standards and registration requirements. It is unfair to treat REALTORS® as if they are the owners and make them responsible for ensuring compliance. VPROs should be clear that REALTORS® are not responsible for the obligations imposed by the ordinance. CABOR does believe, however, that a REALTOR® may act as a conduit of information between the city and the property owner.
- Maintenance standards for the vacant property should be clear, and property owners understand what exactly is required of them while the property is vacant.
- Any fines or other civil penalties should be clearly defined and fairly applied. The official responsible for imposing penalties should be given the authority to waive or suspend penalties in appropriate circumstances.
- Inspection provisions must comply with the Fourth Amendment. An inspection provision should: (1) clearly set forth the scope of the inspection; (2) require that reasonable notice be provided; and (3) not punish an owner for refusing to give entry to an official who does not have a warrant.
“As an organization of professionals dedicated to betterment of the real estate industry and promotion of home ownership, we believe that these recommendations will not only protect the REALTOR, but more importantly the property owner’s rights, as well,” Zettl stated. “CABOR is always looking for ways to improve our communities and encourage growth throughout the Cleveland metropolitan area. We welcome the opportunity to work with cities and organizations dedicated to improving our neighborhoods.”
CABOR and its staff are available as a resource to municipalities, organizations, and property owners in the greater Cleveland area. For more information, call (216) 901-0130 or visit our website, www.cabor.com.
 Safeguard Properties, http://safeguardproperties.com/Resources/Vacant_Property_Registration/OH.aspx?filter=vpr