Chapter 2.12
REGISTRATION OF DEFAULTED MORTGAGE AND VACANT PROPERTY

Sections:

2.12.010    Purpose and intent.

2.12.020    Definitions.

2.12.030    Applicability.

2.12.040    Establishment of a registry.

2.12.050    Registration of defaulted mortgage real property.

2.12.060    Registration of vacant property.

2.12.070    Maintenance requirements.

2.12.080    Security requirements.

2.12.090    Public nuisance.

2.12.100    Reserved.

2.12.110    Additional authority.

2.12.120    Immunity of enforcement officer.

2.12.130    Enforcement and penalties.

2.12.140    Amendments.

2.12.010 Purpose and intent.

To establish a process to address the deterioration, crime and decline in value of city of Wenatchee neighborhoods caused by property with defaulted mortgages and vacant properties located within the city of Wenatchee, and to identify, regulate, limit and reduce the number of these properties located therein; and

To establish a registration requirement as a mechanism to protect neighborhoods from the negative impact and conditions that occur as a result of vacancy, absentee ownership, lack of adequate maintenance and security, and that will provide a method to expeditiously identify a contact person for each registrable property. (Ord. 2019-21 § 1)

2.12.020 Definitions.

The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:

(1) “Administrator” means the director of the department of community development, or their designee.

(2) “Accessible property/structure” means a property that is accessible through a compromised/breached gate, fence, wall, etc., or a structure that is unsecured and/or breached in such a way as to allow access to the interior space by unauthorized persons.

(3) “Applicable codes” means to include, but not be limited to, the city of Wenatchee’s zoning code, the city of Wenatchee’s property maintenance code, nuisance ordinance, solid waste ordinance, and the building and fire codes as adopted by the city of Wenatchee.

(4) “Blighted property” means:

(a) Properties that have broken or severely damaged windows, doors, walls, or roofs which create hazardous conditions or encourage trespassing; or

(b) Properties whose maintenance is not in reasonable conformance with the maintenance of other neighboring properties, causing a decrease in value of the neighboring properties; or

(c) Properties cited for a public nuisance pursuant to the city of Wenatchee codes; or

(d) Properties that endanger the public’s health, safety, or welfare because the properties or improvements thereon are dilapidated, deteriorated, or violate minimum health and safety standards or lack maintenance as required by the applicable codes.

(5) “Enforcement officer” means any law enforcement officer, building official, code enforcement officer, fire inspector, building inspector, or other person authorized by the city of Wenatchee to enforce the applicable code(s).

(6) “Evidence of vacancy” means any condition that on its own, or combined with other conditions present, would lead a reasonable person to believe that the property is vacant. Such conditions may include, but are not limited to: overgrown and/or dead vegetation; past-due utility notices and/or disconnected utilities; accumulation of trash, junk or debris; abandoned vehicles, auto parts or materials; the absence of furnishings and/or personal items consistent with habitation or occupancy; the presence of an unsanitary, stagnant swimming pool; the accumulation of newspapers, circulars, flyers and/or mail; or statements by neighbors, passers-by, delivery agents or government agents; or the presence of boards over doors, windows or other openings in violation of applicable code.

(7) “Default” means that the mortgagor has not complied with the terms of the mortgage on the property, or the promissory note, or other evidence of the debt, referred to in the security instrument.

(8) “Foreclosure” means the legal process by which a mortgagee, or other lien holder, terminates a property owner’s ownership to the real property pledged as security for a debt or the real property subject to the lien.

This definition shall include, but is not limited to, public notice of default, a deed in lieu of foreclosure, sale to the mortgagee or lien holder, certificate of title and all other processes, activities and actions, by whatever name, associated with the described process. The process is not concluded until the property obtained by the mortgagee, lien holder, or their designee by certificate of title, or any other means, is sold to a nonrelated bona fide purchaser in an arm’s length transaction to satisfy the debt or lien.

(9) “Local property management company” means a property manager, property management company or similar entity located within 20 driving miles of the city of Wenatchee limits. Upon review and determination of reasonably satisfactory credentials, the city of Wenatchee may allow a nonlocal property manager to be listed.

(10) “Mortgagee” means the creditor, including, but not limited to, trustees; mortgage servicing companies; lenders in a mortgage agreement; any agent, servant, or employee of the creditor; any successor in interest; or any assignee of the creditor’s rights, interests or obligations under the mortgage agreement.

(11) “Mortgage servicer” means a company or entity to which borrowers/mortgagors pay their mortgage loan payments and which performs other services in connection with mortgages and mortgage-backed securities.

(12) “Owner” means any person, firm, corporation or other legal entity who, individually or jointly or severally with others, holds the legal or beneficial title to any building, facilities, equipment or premises subject to the provisions of this chapter.

(13) “Nonlocal property management company” means a property manager, property maintenance company or similar entity located outside 20 driving miles of the city of Wenatchee.

(14) “Real property” means any residential or commercial land, buildings, leasehold improvements and anything affixed to the land, or portion thereof, identified by a property parcel identification number, located in the city of Wenatchee limits. Developed lots are considered improved land.

(15) “Registrable property” means:

(a) Any real property located in the city of Wenatchee, whether vacant or occupied, that is encumbered by a mortgage in default, is subject to an ongoing foreclosure action by the mortgagee or trustee, has been the subject of a foreclosure action by a mortgagee or trustee and a judgment has been entered, or has been the subject of a foreclosure sale where the title was transferred to the beneficiary of a mortgage involved in the foreclosure, or any properties transferred under a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

The designation of real property as “registrable property” shall remain in place until such time as the real property is sold to a nonrelated bona fide purchaser in an arm’s length transaction or the foreclosure action has been dismissed and any default on the mortgage has been cured.

(b) Any property that is vacant for more than 30 days or any cancellation of utility or service, whichever occurs first.

(16) “Semiannual registration” shall mean six months from the date of the first action that requires registration, as determined by the city of Wenatchee, and every subsequent six months. The date of the initial registration may be different than the date of the first action that required registration.

(17) “Utilities and services” means any utility and/or service that is essential for a building to be habitable and/or perform a service necessary to comply with all city of Wenatchee codes. This includes, but is not limited to, electrical, gas, water, sewer, lawn maintenance, pool maintenance and snow removal.

(18) “Vacant property” means any parcel of land in the city of Wenatchee that contains any building or structure that is not lawfully occupied or inhabited by human beings as evidenced by the conditions set forth in the definition of “evidence of vacancy” above which is without a lawful tenant, a lawful occupant or without a certificate of occupancy. Vacant property does not mean property that is temporarily unoccupied while the residents are away on vacation, personal matters or business, or is not intended by the owner to be left vacant, so long as the period does not exceed 60 days. (Ord. 2019-21 § 1)

2.12.030 Applicability.

These sections shall be considered cumulative and not superseding or subject to any other law or provision for same, but rather be an additional remedy available to the city of Wenatchee above and beyond any other state or city of Wenatchee provisions for same. (Ord. 2019-21 § 1)

2.12.040 Establishment of a registry.

The department of community development shall establish a registry cataloging each registrable property within the city of Wenatchee, containing the information required by this chapter. (Ord. 2019-21 § 1)

2.12.050 Registration of defaulted mortgage real property.

(1) Any mortgagee who holds a mortgage on real property located within the city of Wenatchee, upon default by the mortgagor, shall perform an inspection of the property to determine vacancy or occupancy. The mortgagee shall, within 10 days of the inspection, register the property with the department of community development, or its designee, on forms or other manner as directed, and indicate whether the property is vacant or occupied. A separate registration is required for each property, whether it is found to be vacant or occupied.

(2) Registration pursuant to this section shall contain the name, direct mailing address, a direct contact name, telephone number, and email address for the mortgagee and the mortgage servicer, and the name and 24-hour contact phone number of the local property management company responsible for the security and maintenance of the property who has the authority to make decisions concerning the abatement of nuisance conditions at the property, as well as any expenditure in connection therewith.

Mortgagees who have existing registrable property on the effective date of the ordinance codified in this chapter have 30 calendar days from the effective date to register the property with the department of community development, or its designee, on forms or other manner as directed, and indicate whether the property is vacant or occupied. A separate registration is required for each property, whether it is vacant or occupied.

(3) If the mortgage on a registrable property is sold or transferred, the new mortgagee is subject to all the terms of this chapter. Any previous unpaid registration fees are the responsibility of the new mortgagee and are due and payable with their initial registration; provided, however, if it is determined that the transferee is exempt from paying fees, then the previous mortgagee will not be released from the responsibility of paying all previous unpaid fees and fines, regardless of who the mortgagee was at the time when registration was required, including but not limited to unregistered periods during the foreclosure process. The department of community development is authorized and empowered to refer the previous mortgagee’s nonpayment of previous fees and fines to a court of competent jurisdiction for disposition.

(4) If the servicing rights for a mortgage on a registrable property are sold or transferred, the registration shall be updated by the owner to include all the new servicer information within 10 days of the servicing transfer.

(5) If the mortgagee owner of a foreclosed real property sells or transfers the property to a non-arm’s-length related person or entity, the transferee is subject to all the terms of this chapter and shall update the registration within five days of the transfer of the property. Any previous unpaid registration fees are the responsibility of the new registrable property owner and are due and payable with their initial registration. If it is determined that the transferee is exempt from paying fees, then the previous mortgagee shall not be released from the responsibility of paying all previous unpaid fees and fines. The department of community development is authorized and empowered to refer the previous mortgagee’s nonpayment of previous fees and fines to a court of competent jurisdiction for disposition.

(6) As long as the property is registrable it shall be inspected by the mortgagee, or their designee, monthly. If an inspection shows a change in the property’s occupancy status, the mortgagee shall, within 10 days of that inspection, update the occupancy status of the property registration.

(7) A nonrefundable registration fee, established by ordinance by the city council, shall accompany each registration pursuant to this section.

(a) Once a lis pendens notice of foreclosure or other public notice of foreclosure is filed on a property and the property is not registered and the registration fee paid within 30 days, a late fee, equivalent to 10 percent of the semiannual registration fee established by ordinance by the city council, shall be charged for every 30-day period per property and shall be due and payable with the registration. This section shall apply to the initial registration and registration renewals. Registrations delinquent greater than 30 days are also subject to additional fines as described herein.

(8) All registration fees shall be paid directly by the mortgagee, mortgage servicer, or owner. Third party registration fees are not allowed without the consent of the city of Wenatchee.

(9) Properties subject to this section shall remain under the semiannual registration requirement and the inspection, security and maintenance standards of this chapter as long as they are registrable.

(10) Until the mortgage or lien on the property in question is satisfied, or legally discharged, the desire to no longer pursue foreclosure, the filing of a dismissal of lis pendens and/or summary of final judgment and/or certificate of title, voluntary or otherwise, does not exempt any mortgagee holding the defaulted mortgage from all the requirements of this chapter as long as the borrower is in default.

(11) Any person or legal entity that has registered a property under this section must report any change of information contained in the registration within 10 days of the change.

(12) Failure of the mortgagee to properly register or to modify the registration information as required herein to reflect a change of circumstances as required by this chapter is a violation and shall be subject to enforcement.

(13) Pursuant to any administrative or judicial finding and determination that any property is in violation of this chapter, the city of Wenatchee may take the necessary action to ensure compliance and place a lien on the property for the cost of the work performed to benefit the property and bring it into compliance.

(14) Properties registered as a result of this section are not required to be registered in the vacant property registry. (Ord. 2019-21 § 1)

2.12.060 Registration of vacant property.

(1) Every owner of vacant property shall register the property with the department of community development, on forms or other manner as directed, within 10 days of vacancy. A separate registration is required for each property.

(2) Owners who have vacant property on the effective date of the ordinance codified in this chapter shall have 30 calendar days from the effective date of the ordinance codified in this chapter to register the property with the department of community development on forms or other manner as directed. A separate registration is required for each property.

(3) Registration pursuant to this section shall contain the name(s), direct mailing address, a direct contact name, telephone number, and email address for the owner(s).

(a) If the property is owned by multiple natural persons, then the required information shall be that of one person who has legal authority to act on behalf of the other owners.

(b) If the property is owned by a corporation, whether foreign or domestic, then the required information shall be that of a registered agent and of an officer who has authority to act on behalf of the corporation.

(c) If the property is owned by a partnership, then the required information shall be that of the managing partner who has legal authority to act on behalf of the partnership.

(d) If the property is owned by a trust then the required information shall be that of the trustee who has legal authority to act on behalf of the trust.

(e) If the property is owned by a real estate investment trust, then the required information shall be that of the general partner or an officer who has legal authority to act on behalf of the REIT.

(f) If the property is owned by an unincorporated association or any other legal entity not mentioned above, then the required information shall be that of a person who has legal authority to act on behalf of that association or entity.

(4) Registration pursuant to this section shall contain the 24-hour contact phone number of the local property management company responsible for the security and maintenance of the property that has the authority to make decisions concerning the abatement of nuisance conditions at the property, as well as any expenditure in connection therewith.

(5) The city of Wenatchee reserves the right to require such other information as needed to carry out the public purpose and intent of this chapter.

(6) A nonrefundable semiannual registration fee established by ordinance by the city council shall accompany each registration pursuant to this section.

(7) Registration pursuant to this section shall be required semiannually for as long as the property is vacant and shall remain a continuing obligation until the property is no longer vacant.

(8) Properties subject to this section shall remain under the inspection, security, and maintenance standards set forth in this chapter and applicable city code as long as they remain vacant.

(9) Any person or other legal entity that has registered a property under this section must report any change of information contained in the registration within 10 days of the change. There shall be no fee to update the current owner’s information.

(10) Upon sale of the vacant property, the new owner must update the registration of the property within 10 days of the change of title. The new owner is responsible for all previously unpaid fees, charges and/or fines.

(11) Failure of the property owner of record to properly register or to modify the registration from time to time to reflect a change of circumstances as required by this chapter is a violation of this chapter and shall be subject to enforcement.

(12) If the vacant property is not registered, or either the registration fee or the semiannual registration fee is not paid within 30 days of when the registration or semiannual registration is required pursuant to this section, a late fee equivalent to 10 percent of the semiannual registration fee shall be charged for every 30-day period, or portion thereof, the property is not registered and shall be due and payable with the registration. This section shall apply to the initial registration and registrations required by subsequent owners of the vacant property. (Ord. 2019-21 § 1)

2.12.070 Maintenance requirements.

(1) Properties subject to this chapter shall be kept reasonably free of weeds, overgrown brush, dead vegetation, trash, junk, debris, building materials, any accumulation of newspaper circulars, flyers, notices, except those required by federal, state or local law, discarded personal items including, but not limited to, furniture, clothing, large and small appliances, printed material or any other items that give the appearance that the property is abandoned.

(2) The property shall be maintained free of graffiti or similar markings by removal or painting over with an exterior grade paint that matches the color of the exterior structure.

(3) Front, side, and rear yards, including landscaping, shall be maintained in accordance with the applicable code(s) at the time registration was required.

(4) Yard maintenance shall include, but not be limited to, grass, ground covers, bushes, shrubs, hedges or similar plantings, decorative rock or bark or artificial turf/sod designed specifically for residential installation. Acceptable maintenance of yards and/or landscape shall not include weeds, gravel, broken concrete, asphalt or similar material.

(5) Maintenance shall include, but not be limited to, watering, irrigation, cutting/mowing of ground cover or landscape and removal of all trimmings. Sidewalks shall be kept free of snow and ice buildup in compliance with Chapter 7.24 WCC.

(6) Pools and spas shall be maintained so the water remains free and clear of pollutants and debris and shall comply with the regulations set forth in the applicable code(s). Such water shall be treated to prevent the water from becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

(7) Failure of the mortgagee and/or owner to properly maintain the property may result in a violation of the applicable code(s) and issuance of a citation or notice of violation in accordance with the applicable code(s) of the city of Wenatchee. Pursuant to a finding and determination by the city of Wenatchee, or a court of competent jurisdiction, the city of Wenatchee may take the necessary action to ensure compliance with this section.

(8) In addition to the above, the property is required to be maintained in accordance with the applicable code(s) of the city of Wenatchee. (Ord. 2019-21 § 1)

2.12.080 Security requirements.

(1) Properties subject to these sections shall be maintained in a secure manner so as not to be accessible to unauthorized persons.

(2) A “secure manner” shall include, but not be limited to, the closure and locking of windows, doors, gates and other openings of such size that may allow a child to access the interior of the property or structure.

Broken windows, doors, gates and other openings of such size that may allow a child to access the interior of the property or structure must be repaired. Broken windows shall be secured by reglazing of the window.

(3) If a property is registrable, and the property has become vacant or blighted, a local property manager shall be designated by the mortgagee or owner to perform the work necessary to bring the property into compliance with the applicable code(s), and the property manager must perform regular inspections to verify compliance with the requirements of this chapter, and any other applicable laws.

(4) In addition to the above, the property is required to be secured in accordance with the applicable code(s) of the city of Wenatchee. (Ord. 2019-21 § 1)

2.12.090 Public nuisance.

All registrable property is at risk of being a public nuisance and if vacant or blighted can constitute a public nuisance, the abatement of which pursuant to the police power is hereby declared to be necessary for the health, welfare and safety of the residents of the city of Wenatchee. (Ord. 2019-21 § 1)

2.12.100 Reserved.

(Ord. 2019-21 § 1)

2.12.110 Additional authority.

(1) The administrator shall have the authority to require the mortgagee or owner affected by this section to implement additional maintenance and/or security measures including, but not limited to, securing any and all doors, windows or other openings, employment of an on-site security guard or other measures as may be reasonably required to help prevent further decline of the property.

(2) If there is a finding that the condition of the property is posing a serious threat to the public health, safety and welfare, then the administrator may direct city staff to abate the violations and charge the mortgagee or owner with the cost of the abatement.

(3) If the mortgagee or owner does not reimburse the city of Wenatchee for the cost of temporarily securing the property, or of any abatement directed by the administrator, within 30 days of the city of Wenatchee sending the mortgagee or owner the invoice, then the city of Wenatchee may seek a judgment for same. (Ord. 2019-21 § 1)

2.12.120 Immunity of enforcement officer.

Any enforcement officer or any person authorized by the city of Wenatchee to enforce the sections herein shall be immune from prosecution, civil or criminal, for reasonable, good faith entry upon real property while in the discharge of duties imposed by this chapter. (Ord. 2019-21 § 1)

2.12.130 Enforcement and penalties.

(1) Enforcement. The requirements of this chapter may be enforced as follows:

(a) By citation for a Class 1 civil infraction pursuant to Chapter 7.80 RCW and processed pursuant to Chapter 16.08 WCC;

(b) By an action for injunctive relief, civil penalties, or both, through a court of competent jurisdiction;

(c) By revocation or temporary suspension of necessary permits and/or certificates of occupancy and/or licenses;

(d) By any other process permitted at law or equity; and

(e) Use of one enforcement process or theory does not preclude the city of Wenatchee from seeking the same, different, or additional relief through other enforcement methods.

(2) Separate Offenses. A violation of this chapter shall constitute a separate offense for each day it shall continue or recur. Each condition which exists in violation of this chapter is a separate violation.

(3) Each day a property remains unregistered when required to be registered by this chapter is a separate offense for each day it shall continue or recur.

(4) Each day a property is not inspected as required by this chapter is a separate offense.

(5) Each day a property is not secured as required by this chapter is a separate offense.

(6) Each day a condition violating the city of Wenatchee’s minimum housing codes or property maintenance codes exists on a property subject to registration under this chapter is a separate offense.

(7) Persons Responsible for Violations. The owner, mortgagee, mortgage servicer, and their duly authorized officers, employees or agents employed in connection therewith who have assisted in the commission of the violation or failed to perform as required by this chapter shall be guilty of the violation. (Ord. 2019-21 § 1)

2.12.140 Amendments.

Registration and penalty fees outlined in this chapter may be modified by ordinance passed and adopted by the city council. (Ord. 2019-21 § 1)