Foreclosure pets, foreclosure fires, and now, foreclosure weeds – is there no end to the devastation brought about by home foreclosures? As a consumer bankruptcy specialist in Indiana, I’ve been dealing with bankruptcy and foreclosure issues for decades, but I must confess I hadn’t given enough thought to weeds. Weeds make everything worse in a foreclosure.
By way of quick review, once a property is foreclosed, the Sherriff’s Department holds an auction. Meanwhile, until that Sherriff’s sale takes place, whosever name is on the deed is responsible for the upkeep of the home. Overgrown, dirty yards are an eyesore in any neighborhood, negatively affecting the value of other homes nearby. In some climates, the weeds dry out and become a fire hazard. In fact, fire officials warn that dry weeds should be kept at least fifteen feet from houses.
In cases where a builder files bankruptcy before selling all the homes in the addition, the homeowners who have moved in are stuck with the problem, and their homeowners’ association may be stuck with the weed-whacking bill as well.
Some towns already have ordinances that allow officials to enter a foreclosed property and cut down overgrown weeds, I’m learning, and others are creating ordinances of their own as the problem gets worse. Costs for the enforced weed-trimming are added to the taxes on the property, making homes even more of a challenge to sell.
Foreclosure of a home is certainly not something people would choose for themselves or for loved ones, but my experience over twenty-plus years as a bankruptcy attorney has taught me that in certain circumstances, foreclosure is actually the best option for a client (see Keeping Home, Sweet Home – It Depends!). Abandoned pets, arson, weeds – these are all part of a foreclosure picture that could have been at least a little prettier. If only people would face up to their situation and get help earlier in the process of undergoing financial difficulties, some foreclosures might be avoided, and there might be a whole lot less weed-whacking going on!