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Home Inspector Takes Greater Role in Minnesota Cities

November 16th, 2009

The city home inspector has been increasingly taking a greater role in the monitoring of foreclosed and vacant homes in the Minnesota cities of Lakeville and Burnsville, which are both located in Dakota County.

As vacant foreclosure homes continue to rise in the two cities and as mortgage lenders fail to maintain the properties, Burnsville crafted an ordinance that assigned a group of house inspectors to monitor the conditions of foreclosed properties and then assess maintenance costs on the owners of the properties.

But due to decline in tax revenues that ultimately forced Burnsville to cut its budget, the ordinance authorizing a team of house inspectors to supervise foreclosure properties was rescinded. Now, only one house inspector in Burnsville is monitoring foreclosed properties. Likewise, Lakeville has also reduced the number of its inspectors to only one.

Because of the reduction, Ron Anderson, a real estate inspector for the city of Burnsville for about ten years, is now overwhelmed with work because of the continued rise in foreclosure activity in the area.

Dave Olson, director of the Lakeville Community and Economic Development, said it has been a challenge for city personnel, particularly for the city home inspector, to monitor and maintain vacant foreclosure properties because the activities do not generate revenues for the city.

According to Olson, his team gets its list of foreclosure sales monthly from the Dakota County Community Development Agency so it can continue monitoring foreclosed properties. The foreclosure sales are conducted by the county through sheriff’s sales.

As of September, the county has sold a total of 1,349 housing units through sheriff’s sales. Last year, more than 2,000 units were sold by the county. About 300 units were located in the cities of Apple Valley, Eagan, Burnsville and Lakeville.

Olson explained that mortgage lenders are responsible for maintaining properties once they are foreclosed, but the 6-month redemption period gives lenders the leeway not to comply because property owners can still redeem the property within the allotted period.

He added that some banks are more responsible, particularly those that are located in the area. But out-of-state banks have been harder to pursue for maintenance.

Another problem faced by the city is the right to inspect once a property has been secured. He said that the city home inspector cannot just enter a property to look into a water problem causing a street flooding problem without first getting a court order.

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