Greater City Providence

Taveras Administration and City Council introduce vacant property registration ordinance


Image from Mayor Taveras’ Twitter

A new ordinance introduced by City Councilors Matos and Principe and co-sponsored by the entire Council will require out of state banks and property owners to register their properties and maintain the interior and exterior of their properties. Failure to register or comply will result in violations of $1,000/day up to $100,000.

Mayor Taveras Announces Initiative to Address Foreclosed, Boarded Homes

Proposed vacant property ordinance will hold landlords accountable for maintaining properties; speed revitalization of neighborhoods impacted by national foreclosure crisis

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Angel Taveras today announced his administration’s initiative to strengthen the city’s oversight of foreclosed and abandoned properties and speed the revitalization of neighborhoods impacted by the national foreclosure crisis.

“My administration is working together with the City Council to address the impacts in Providence of the national foreclosure crisis. Owners of vacant and abandoned properties have an obligation to their communities to ensure they are maintained and secured,” said Mayor Taveras. “As Mayor and as a former housing court judge, I’ve seen first-hand how a healthy housing stock acts like an anchor – keeping communities safe and stable.”

Mayor Taveras and City Councilors announced plans for passage this fall of Rhode Island’s first vacant property registration ordinance. The ordinance, introduced by Councilwoman Sabina Matos (Ward 15) and Councilman Bryan Principe (Ward 13) and co-sponsored by all 15 members of the City Council, will require out-of-state banks and all owners of vacant properties to register the properties in a publicly accessible database and comply with strict requirements regarding their internal and external maintenance and security.

Under city laws, trash and graffiti at vacant properties need to be removed within 48 hours, entrances to must be protected by motion activated lighting from dusk to dawn, doors need to be locked with deadbolts, plumbing needs to be winterized and efforts must be taken to rid properties of rodents and vermin.

Non-compliance will result in fines of $1,000 per day per violation, up to $100,000.

The ordinance will require out-of-state banks and other vacant property owners located beyond 50 miles of the city to register a local agent who will be responsible for complying with maintaining their vacant properties in accordance with city laws. Property owners will be required to provide the Providence Police Department and the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services with 24-hour contact information for all abandoned properties.

While state law and city code enables the city to pursue negligent property owners, this ordinance creates a special category of properties for which the city can take faster, more aggressive action. Providence would be the first community in Rhode Island to pass a vacant properties registration ordinance, joining more than 500 cities and towns nationally that have enacted similar ordinances.

Mayor Taveras announced plans for the ordinance standing alongside City Councilors and Olneyville Housing Corporation Executive Director Frank Shea outside of 43 Hyatt Street in Providence’s Olneyville neighborhood. The address, which was recently rehabilitated by Olneyville Housing, had been partially destroyed by fire and was one of many vacant houses in the neighborhood covered in plywood.

Earlier today, Mayor Taveras toured the neighborhood with the city’s Nuisance Task Force – an interdepartmental effort that brings together staff from the Mayor’s policy office, the Law Department, the Police and Fire departments, Public Works, and Inspections and Standards to rapidly identify and respond to vacant and problematic properties that pose risks to public health, public safety and quality of life.

The Nuisance Task Force meets bi-weekly at the Law Department, where individualized action plans are developed to address each property. When possible, the task force brings property owners in to City Hall to connect them with available resources such as landlord training or lead paint safety classes.

When a tougher response is required, the task force refers negligent properties to Housing Court. Properties that represent significant safety concerns in the community can be scheduled for demolition.

This summer, the city’s Law Department has conducted a census of abandoned properties in Providence that inventories problem properties and maps them by their locations and their challenges.

Mayor Taveras also announced today the formation of an ad-hoc policy advisory group, the Providence Housing Partnership. Consisting of representatives from our city’s community development corporations, advocacy organizations and preservation society, the Housing Partnership will be staffed by the Mayor’s policy office and will be responsible for providing input and consultation on all issues related to housing policy.

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  • Let’s hope that the new Nuisance Task Force and Providence Housing Partnership cause the city to extend anti-“demolition by neglect” protection to all city properties, not just those properties within local historic districts that have such protection now and this new group that will gain some protection by this future ordinance. The nine neglected but still very significant historic properties that Gilbane plans to demolish on Thayer Street should have had that protection, but didn’t.

  • I don’t think this ordinance would address the demolition by neglect of the buildings on Thayer Street as those buildings are not vacant and therefore would not need to be registered.

  • Registration should also be required for all non-owner occupied properties not just vacant properties owned by out-of-staters.. I have seen plenty of rentals where the absentee landlord neglects their property for months or even years.
    Also in the interest of being a good neighbor the property owner should post contact information on their buildings. This would allow neighbors to inform landlords of problems with the property (and with tenants if necessary)..

  • Providence has its own NTF? Back in 2001 that was the domain of the RI Attorney General’s office.

    Anyhow – you now what this will do. Banks are holding on to these properties with the goal of trying to sell them at highest price. But if they pay fines of $1,000 a day – they’re just going to dump them on the market. Doing so introduces a glut of properties – and will suppress home prices.

    It’ going to get interesting.

  • Assuming they are bank owner mortgages and not held by some random CDO investors, banks are not holding onto them to maximize the price but to not have to recognize the loss on their books and thus screw with their reserve requirements. This is the same reason they resist principal reductions in the mortgage modifications that Obama and congress have tried to implement

    It is unlikely that this will cause a sudden glut on the market unless the city starts seizing and auctioning en-masse due to non-compliance.

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