Searches for “overgrown,” “debris” and “dilapidated” in the Public Eye email inbox yield countless reports of rundown homes in South Jersey.
Ventnor, Atlantic City, Galloway Township — Public Eye has received at least one vacant-home complaint from just about every municipality in our coverage area.
The problem: Despite a four-year turnaround in the housing market and an optimistic outlook from officials, Atlantic County still has one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates. Homes remain vacant years after the recession. While auctions and investors have helped remedy the problem in many towns, residents still notice homes falling into disrepair, with no one seeming to handle the problem.
The solution: One Egg Harbor Township resident who contacted Public Eye said he’s taken the first step in getting a neglected foreclosed home addressed. He contacted the Township Committee, which can oversee the enforcement of township code that mandates removal of “brush, weeds, dead and dying trees, stumps, roots, obnoxious growths, filth, garbage, trash, debris or other articles.”
In Egg Harbor Township, the property must first be inspected by a township official — the fire chief or appointed fire inspectors, a health officer and/or the chief of police — to assess the risk. Also, the owner of the property must be given written notice that the articles must be removed and 10 days to remove them.
The concerned resident said the committee helped him get as far as identifying who currently owns the property, Ditech Home Loans, to which notice has been given. But there has been no response from the Florida-based company.
Some success stories have come out of contacting the bank or mortgage company responsible for a foreclosed property.
A last-ditch effort may be to look into home and garden show casting calls. A quick scan of the TV seems to suggest the newest reality-show trend is home renovations, and Atlantic County could provide a handful of house-flipper series a season’s-worth of shows.