One of the most persistent problems associated with our national foreclosure crisis has been the laborious process of finding out contact information for owners of vacant homes that have fallen into disrepair. Sometimes, a sea of paperwork and a lengthy process of recording documents can delay finding responsible parties for up to 18 months. In that "limbo period" between the time a foreclosure sale occurs and a deed transferring title is recorded, a lot can happen to compromise the security and the maintenance of the property, causing major headaches for neighbors and local jurisdictions.
Chapter 155 of the Acts of 2012 created the Foreclosed Property Registry to eliminate that frustrating period of time that foreclosed properties' owners may not be easily contacted. The Registry is maintained by the Division of Financial Regulation of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and it contains the contact information for who purchased the foreclosed home and who is responsible for maintenance.
While the Division maintains the database, it is the responsibility of each foreclosure purchaser to enter the information into it. A "foreclosure purchaser" is defined in the law as the purchaser on the report of sale in a foreclosure sale of a residential property (typically the lender). By law, the person responsible for conducting the sale must provide the purchaser with instructions to register and obtain a written acknowledgment of receipt of the instructions.
Any residential property sold at a foreclosure sale on or after October 1, 2012 must be entered into the database in two steps. The initial registry must be made within 30 days of the foreclosure sale. The fee is $50. After 30 days, the fee doubles to $100. Then, the second registry must be made once a deed for the property has been recorded. There is no fee for the second registry. In both steps, the foreclosure purchaser is required to enter the information, not any subsequent purchaser or real estate licensee involved in the sale.
The information contained in the database is intended for use by local jurisdictions and state agencies, and may be provided to homeowners on the same block as the foreclosed home or the appropriate homeowners or condominium association. It is not part of public record.
Enforcement of the Act has been left to the discretion of local jurisdictions. A local jurisdiction may enact an ordinance to impose a civil penalty up to $1000 for violating the law, and may collect costs associated with the abatement of a nuisance on the property. To read Chapter 155 in its entirety, please click here. If you need help with the instructions on the website for the Foreclosed Property Registry, please email ForeclosureOutreach@dllr.state.md.us.
As a service to consumers, the Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA) has recently published a short flier about consumer rights in the real estate settlement process. The flier, The Title Insurance Consumer's Bill of Rights----9 Things You Should Know Before Signing a Contract of Sale or Refinancing Your Property, may be downloaded from the MIA website. The MREC strongly urges licensees to make every effort to provide a copy of the document to their clients before they sign contracts. A longer publication, A Consumer Guide to Title Insurance, can also be found on the site.