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Councilman seeks tougher maintenance rules for foreclosures

A city councilman is aiming to keep foreclosed properties around Naperville from becoming an eyesore.

Councilman Steve Chirico has proposed the city crack down on landscaping requirements for such properties, but also limit the work that can be done on weekends.

“I don’t know if it’s a three strikes you’re out type of deal or some sort of system in place that would make it become mandatory for investor-owned properties or absentee landlords or bank-owned properties to have a professional landscaping service take care of their yards so at least it gets done,” he said.

The city does not keep track of the number of foreclosures, but Councilman Doug Krause, a real estate agent, said he believes there are about 2,000 such properties in Naperville ranging from condos to single-family homes.

City codes currently restrict grass heights from going above 5 inches in the parkway and 8 inches on private lots regardless of whether the property is in foreclosure. Property owners who do not obey the code may face fines. The city also may cut the grass and charge the owner, but Krause said recouping money from a property in foreclosure is not always a simple process.

While Chirico said he wants to make sure lawns are being mowed, he’d also like to restrict the time on weekends when landscapers can do yard work on properties in foreclosure. Most homeowners who hire landscapers ask them to work during the week, he said. But that’s not necessarily the case with bank-owned properties, which is “very disruptive to the neighborhoods.”

“Landscape services are just sort of coming in and hitting all these properties and it really changes the comfort of people who are going out on their back deck to read a book or do some gardening or have a glass of wine or whatever they want to do,” Chirico said.

Krause agrees foreclosed homes need to be maintained. On his own street, neighbors have started to mow the lawn of a foreclosure to keep it from dragging down their own property values. But he has concerns about Chirico’s proposal to limit when the grass can be cut and said he doesn’t believe landscaping companies can be treated differently than residents.

“I have neighbors who work all week and the only time they can cut the grass is on the weekend,” he said, “You can’t discriminate one against the other.”

Chirico will have to seek the support of fellow councilmen to put the topic on a future meeting agenda.

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