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Monday, March 12, 2012 - 11:43am

Bill Targets Vacant Properties

A bill headed to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature would create uniform rules for cities and counties setting up vacant property registries. The state Senate passed the bill Monday. Supporters say the measure will target owners of neglected properties that invite vandalism and lower home values.

The bill aims to force property owners to maintain homes even if no one is living there.

Supporters say the foreclosure crisis has brought a glut of neglected homes that attract crime. They say poorly-maintained properties lower home values for everyone nearby.

Sen. Jesse Stone, a Waynesboro Republican, says the bill helps ferret out the guilty parties.

“The problem arises when properties sit for long lengths of time, sometimes years before we can find out who owns them," he said during Senate debate. "And that’s what we’re trying to allow our local governments to pursue with these registries.”

But many Senators objected, saying it reduces local control and imposes onerous fines on property owners.

Sen. Steve Gooch is a Dahlonega Republican.

“This bill possibly could help some of the cities and counties in Georgia and especially the more urban areas, but some of the provisions in this bill in my opinion will take more and more rights of people who own land,” he said during floor debate.

The bill would allow municipalities to charge property owners no more than $100 to register a home. It would cap the penalty for not registering at $1,000.

The state House has already passed the bill.

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