Who must clean properties that are foreclosed?

MAILBAG

November 02, 2003

A reader from Baltimore said that two rowhouses next to his home were foreclosed on a few months ago and he can't find out who is maintaining the properties, which have collected debris, grass and other materials outside the home. He wants information on the best way to track down the owners to discuss maintenance.

Dear reader:

The record owner of foreclosed property is responsible for complying with building code requirements until the court ratifies the foreclosure sale. These obligations include compliance with local laws requiring the property to be kept free of weeds, trash and debris.

At the time the foreclosure sale is court-ratified, the property can be legally transferred to the person who purchased it. You can find out the name and address of the foreclosure sale purchaser by consulting the court records. The foreclosure sale case file should disclose who bought the property. In Baltimore, the court order ratifying the sale also is supposed to be filed in the land records.

Under the terms of some non-foreclosure auction sales, the purchaser may be obligated to assume maintenance responsibilities "once the gavel falls." Since these non-judicial sales do not have to be ratified by a court, settlement usually occurs within 30 days of the sale, and there is a new owner of record who will be responsible for maintaining the property.

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