Property Management Blog

Gwinnett Property Owners Beware – New Vacancy Registration Law Now In Effect

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Atlanta Property Management Blog

If you own property in Gwinnett County, but have a home available for rent or sale, be aware! There is a new property registration requirement for un-occupied homes that are vacant more than 60 days. This puts a huge burden on legitimate homeowners who are no longer living in the property, but need to sell or rent their property. The new law requires registration and payment of a registration fee in order to be in compliance.

This was originally started to deal with banks who foreclosed on properties and who were not maintaining their lawns & structures. However this law has now unfortunately spilled over to legitimate homeowners who have vacant properties.

While Mark & I have attended meetings to try and stop this legislation, we were not successful. We recommended that the county deal with the offenders and not the general public. Since the county maintains the records, all they had to do is when a property forecloses, process the paperwork and perform the registration and collect a fee at that time and not for general vacant homes, but that was too easy.

So as it stands, the traditional homeowner or real estate investor with a home for rent or sale, will now be burdened with either a $100 registration fee or be required to maintain utilities and pay for a minimum monthly utility fee. Certainly this was better than the original proposition, but it is still an irritant to me.

As a property owner with multiple properties who does maintain my properties- paying for the lawn management expense, garbage collection fees (paid via my property taxes regardless of usage), vacancy fees, etc., we now get to add the pain of establishing utility service to my list of growing expenses. I am hoping that by establishing water, it will be cheaper than paying the county registration fee.

In reality, the new law isn’t well thought out and will make it purchasing a home even more challenging for home buyers as well. How you might ask? Good question! You see, the banks aren’t stupid. They see more and more cities & counties enacting these types of fees. So, what they are doing to avoid paying these fees is not actually recording the Deed Under Power (DUP) until they have a willing buyer for the property. So what! Well if they don’t record the deed, then they don’t “legally” own the property and therefore aren’t liable to pay the vacancy fee.

So now they actually have a willing buyer who now wants to buy the property, but can’t because the bank hasn’t filed the proper paperwork to sell the home. We are finding that the timeframe for getting a DUP is taking weeks and weeks. This delay ends up costing the potential buyer time and possibly money for holdover if they are currently leasing.

It will be interesting to see if the counties try and charge the previous homeowner the vacancy fees. Imagine having to prove that the home foreclosed and that the vacancy fee isn’t really your debt. More fun for years to come.

To learn more about the Property Maintenance Ordinance, visit Gwinnett Counties website.

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