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$500 a day fines in PTC for failing to register vacant houses?

Vacated homes will have to be registered with the city after they remain empty for more than 180 days, according to a new ordinance that will be considered Thursday night by the Peachtree City Council.

The idea is for the city to keep track of vacant homes for safety purposes and also to help protect the property values of nearby homeowners, city officials have said.

The fire and police departments would be told about the vacant homes, and city staff would also be empowered to make inspections when necessary to insure the property isn’t taken over by vagrants, for example, according to Interim Community Development Director David Rast.

The ordinance suggested by city staff would require a $200 registration fee and for additional inspection fees, with the first one being $50, the second $75 and $100 for each additional inspection.

The ordinance also empowers the city to declare an unregistered vacant home as being vacant.

Property owners who fail to provide required information, provide false information, or fail to act on a requirement under the ordinance would face a fee of up to $500 a day, according to the staff proposal.

There are a few cases in which exceptions could be made to having a home declared vacant, according to the proposed ordinance. They include:

• A vacant structure being actively marketed for sale or lease for less than 12 months by a licensed real estate broker or an owner who is regularly advertising the property;

• A vacant structure that is under contract for sale or lease for less than 12 months; and

• A vacant structure that has a city building permit issued for remodeling or repair.

In other business, council is being asked to approve an agreement that would allow for the creation of a disc (frisbee) golf club that would help maintain the city’s course directly across Willowbend Road from City Hall.

The club wants to raise money by offering memberships and sponsorships while also hosting small local tournaments at first. The club’s future goal is to build an 18-hole course somewhere in the city to enable the recruitment of state-level tournaments, according to a memo from city recreation staff.



Busy Bee's picture

I'd be interested in how effective this ordinance is. It seems to me that it is designed to make the city council sound tough on deadbeats, but I don't foresee that the city will have a lot of success actually collecting any fees from anyone. I had a neighbor who abandoned her house to the bank and moved to California. The house sat empty for about a year and a half while it went through the forclosure process. The neighbors certainly had concerns about the condition of the house during that time and at one point we were concerned that it had been broken into repeatedly. But even if this ordinance had been in effect, who would actually register and pay the fee? Certainly the homeowner who walked away from the mortgage wouldn't have bothered registering the house with the city. She was not interested when we tried to contact her about the possible break-ins. She certainly would not have bothered with registering the house as vacant. Would the bank register the house? I find that unlikely, especially if it is an out of state bank.

Mike King's picture

Does anyone at city hall realize that it will cost more to track down those who vacate their property than any fine will produce? It's clear that most homes are left vacant due to folks being unable to make mortgage payments, so does it not stand to reason that these people simply do not have the money? Kind of like trying to get blood out of a turnip, as my Grandma would say.

But then if old Bernie can keep Council chasing its tail on items of minimal consequence, he can do pretty much as he pleases on things such as the budget. Does anyone remember the tree cutting permit whereby a city worker would come try and talk a homeowner out of removing an unwanted tree? Some things never change.

How to reduce the quality of tenants in Peachtree City.

Don't worry, Mayor Don. Your lawn nazis will soak up any and all shortfalls or the heavens fall. Not on city-owned land, of course, but for the common man.

Don Haddix's picture

Tracking down owners for various legal reasons is a growing problem that is costing PTC time and money. There have been health issues, lowering of adjoining property values, vandalism and other problems.

This ordinance is to better enable us to legally act on complaints and violations while recovering some of the costs involved.

Since discussions on this issue began we have been receiving increased numbers of verbal, written and email complaints from both individuals and HOA's about such homes.

Same with the tightening of maintenance on such issues as grass height.

These are issues citizens have wanted action on for some time now.

<cite><strong>Don Haddix
Peachtree City Mayor</strong></cite>

Mr. Mayor:

Even vacant property remains PRIVATE PROPERTY.

Your ordnance assumes rights of entry and new levels of "code enforcement" that subordinate the rightful owners' handling and disposition of their PRIVATELY OWNED premises. Not to mention an extraordinary schedule of increasing fines and penalties that you will most likely be unable, to document, enforce, and collect even-handedly.

Your new law demands the first $200 for compliance with this same new law?? Completely ludicrous. This "registration fee" will bar the door to many who can't afford it -- or hold your underlying presumptions in contempt.

From whom are you going to collect fines on foreclosed parcels? I can see your fee demand letter being opened in the offices of a busy out-of-state mortgage banker who is sinking under the weight of delinquent payors and overhwhelmed by foreclosure proceedings. Filed--- and ignored.

In these extraordinary times, it is sad that owners just "walk-away" from ownership and mortgage payments due to job loss -- upside down value/indebtedness ratios -- a myriad of "downturn" reasons. Who will you hold responsible for properties that linger in "foreclosure-limbo-hell" (often for a year or two -- or more)??

You make the increasing inspections, issue demands for compliance, assess the fines, (Will the city mow the delinquent grass also??) and put in extraordinary additional (PAID) man-hours trying to locate/find the "offenders" and convince them to pay up.

Can you really make this gadget work to the city's eventual betterment and financial advantage-- OR--just giving PTC a bad/worse reputation for ineffective, empty-rhetoric laws that increasingly encroach on the property rights of her citizens??

Considering the downline consequences: Who pays the ATTORNEY when it is time to file property liens against code violators, fee-delinquent owners/properties-- And certainly when this tony law (and fees/liens) gets contested in courts?? AND/OR the city winds up on the wrong end of a lawsuit or even criminal enforcement for trespassing, property damage, or WORSE!

The city management already presumes too much, and asserts too many rights, fees/fines and privileges of assessment and enforcement on the private side of the curb. Neighborhoods that have covenants and associations are one thing; the owners "signed-up" for those restrictions. The government should neither assume authority nor encroach on private property for aesthetic preferences, economic "maintenance" of property values, or any other cause except public safety.

Eventually, the real estate market will recover. In the interim, vacant premises remain the property--AND THE RESPONSIBILITY of the deedholders, NOT the city.

You should keep the bureaucrats and "enforcers" on the public side of the curb. I seriously doubt the makers of this contemplated ordnance have thought it all the way through.

This is a can of worms -- the city should NOT open.

Does the City have any plans to maintain Hwy 74 South of Hwy 54? It appears at this time, they do not.

Put me down as one that is NOT pleased with this new mowing contract.

Also, in regards to this new vacant house ordinance, what about vacant properties that are being kept up by their owners? They keep the grass mowed, utilities own, etc.. Would they have to register too? If so, why not all homeowners? Some of them don't cut their grass, etc. either!

My point is, go after the troublemakers, not the law abiding citizens.

Don Haddix's picture

Until we get full turn over from GDOT we do not maintain it.

As I said before, the issue remains one of mowing schedule, which is controlled by Staff. The amount of mowing has been increased by Council instruction but we are still in an economic crunch.

No, if the home is maintained and looked after by owners then it will not come into our radar. This is for homes that are vacant and not being kept up.

Those that don't cut grass but are living there fall under Code Enforcement, where we just enhance enforcement.

Same with trees. We are working on enhancing that enforcement as well. It is nonsense to try to persuade someone to not cut what should not be cut. Yet another area of demand citizens want to see dealt with more aggressively.

We are adding teeth to what didn't have teeth before, enhancing where enforcement was weak and adding what has been long standing demands from a lot of citizens that past Councils didn't want to touch.

This isn't just about private homes. A large arena of problems exist with developer and other related properties.

We have a serious problem tracking down property owners who are not fulfilling their legal obligations and are problems for surrounding properties. If you pay close attention to the actual ordinance those who are doing what they are suppose to do with their properties will not get caught in this net. But those who do not will now find their neighbors and Code Enforcement with tools with which to act which they did not have before. Neighbors are acting already.

Either we move in this direction or the taxpayers will be continue to pay for the legal efforts and tracking down problem owners. Which do you want paying for these issues?

<cite><strong>Don Haddix
Peachtree City Mayor</strong></cite>

Mike King's picture

"Either we move in this direction or the taxpayers will continue to pay for the legal efforts..." Just for grins, are you and our esteemed 'staff' prepared to extradite a property owner from California to maintain their yard? Get real! This is akin to the blind leading the blind. Our town staff has better things to do and as a property owner, I can easily tie up your efforts in court indefinitely and into probate should my estate choose to do so.

If this is a priority, no wonder we have a mountain of debt that we can't afford. But then, we can let SANY off the hook for a quarter million bucks, but we can fine someone out of work with foreclosed property five hundred bucks a day.

The less Peachtree City gets involved with private property rights, the less it will pay out in attorney fees and lost lawsuits.

I do think it all boils down to whether the property owner is responsible or not. It is ridiculous how long it takes for a foreclosed property to be "claimed" by the banks, ie get through the system. Some Counties are several months behind in recording deeds, etc.

These potential fines won't do much for the property who just don't care, I agree with others on that point. Just make sure the City doesn't spend a $1000 in time etc. to collect $200-300 in fines. A few responsible neighbors can help big time by actually mowing a yard every now and then when a house is obviously vacant. It helps everyone, especially them, in regards to their own property value.

Re Hwy 74....why is the GDOT still holding on? And are we dealing with the same Contractor on the new widening on further south on 74? They should have been made to finish one area FULLY before moving on to others.

Dondol's picture

Weren't we having this same discussion this time last year about the same thing, and weren't we told the same thing (GDOT hasn't turned it over to us).
Exactly how long does it take for someone to make up their mind? GDOT is broke, the City is broke, I don't care who but someone needs to get off of their Butt and cut the Grass! Every time I go down 74 now it looks like I'm pulling into Riverdale, I moved from there 20 years ago to get away from that. Of course it took 4 years to get the Bridge from nowhere completed so I guess we still got 3 years before we can cut that area.

Busy Bee's picture

"We have a serious problem tracking down property owners who are not fulfilling their legal obligations and are problems for surrounding properties." No doubt that is true Mr. Haddix. The ordinance is clearly targeted towards irresponsible property owners. But the fact that they are irresponsible also means that they are not likely to bother registering their vacant home with the city or to pay any fines that are levied against them. They simply do not care. If it is a foreclosure, then they don't have the money to pay a registration fee or a fine anyway. And it is doubtful that the bank holding the mortage cares enough about the property to either maintain it, or to register it with the city as a vacant property, especially if it is not a local bank. If you can't track down these property owners now, then how will this ordinance help the city track them down? Seems like a pointless solution to me.

GDOT has mowing responsibilities right now of this stretch. Two weeks ago, I spoke with one of the mgt. dopes and he told me they had just seeded and fertilized (again). I told him he was hallucinating if he thought that was grass coming up. I told him whatever money is being paid out (he said they have receipts for these products), is not making it to the dirt. I not so subtly suggested the subs are using this product to resell on their own or are giving it away to friends-there is no way this stuff is on Hwy 74. He said they wanted to wait 3-4 weeks to mow.

Go to and click on "contact us" in the upper right corner. On the next page, scroll down below the phone # information and fill in the online form. In the subject field click on "Report maintenance need". Be sure to request to be contacted with a response. Fill in your displeasure with the appearance of this median and shoulder.

Complaint sent. We'll see what they say. I agree, it's nothing but weeds.

On a side note regarding the sound walls...what happened to the landscaping monies....

Here's the article from the archives..

should be

Correction from my post above. Too many "dots" for my brain to handle.

Grass cutting today on Hwy 74 S in PTC...

yes, that about sums it up. Thanks for your help on this.

I'll go bask in our glory later today.

You are right, now we need to work on the greenery for the sound walls.

MajorMike's picture

Mr. Mayor,

While your intentions are pure and your objectives are legitimate, there are several aspects of your plan that are just not going to fly - legally, operationally, and perceptually.

Legally - While it is well established that cities have the right to demand a certain level of maintenance from the structures contained within it's boundaries, the rights of property owners are equally established under both Federal and State laws. Collection of any fees, up to and including declaring a house "vacant" (abandoned?)are going to be time consuming and legally challenging. Add to that the fact that an increasing number of houses are just "walked away from" leaving the bank / lien holder unaware of any problems past delinquent mortgage payments. Many of these houses have been "trashed" further legitimizing Government's health & safety concerns. If the fees are not perceived as customary and reasonable, it's going to be a costly and frustrating venture for PTC.

Operationally - While code enforcement usually does an acceptable job, too many times they have had attacks of enthusiasm that are simply not founded in law or common sense. They have been known to take a shotgun approach to city ordinances such as applying (or trying to)a property maintenance ordinance to vehicle tag issues. PTC once had an ordinance that you could not park your car on the street in front of your house. This ordinance lasted for some years until a resident finally took them to task in superior court. "Bluff" will only serve so far before someone with a few dollars and a stiff backbone calls it. Fayette County lost it's sign ordinances some years back in much the same manner.

Perceptually - When you start the conversation with or the headlines read $500!!!! Then people perceive yet another tax. It is much the same as when you stated several weeks back that we needed another Splost. We do indeed need one but.... in today’s climate, it just ain't gonna fly. Voters have responded to the continual mismanagement of tax dollars by various levels of government with increasingly frequent votes to withhold those monies. Your predecessor did far more damage to PTC in that respect than even you know. Public relations and communication is everything is today’s world and I applaud your efforts it that direction. While some few have critisized you for it, I find it both refreshing and effective.

After many years (decades even), we appear to have a Mayor and Council that are legitimately concerned with the will of the voters. Thank you for your service.

An interesting segment on the afternoon TV news - where the mayor explained that Peachtree City is no longer a 'new' city and but a mature city in need of code enforcement and development. A mayor and council who are dealing with reality - and interested in maintaining an award winning community for all of its citizens. The challenges may be great - but if citizens cooperate, they can be overcome.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

And from whom? Bank of America? Wells Fargo? A foreclosed homeowner? Who on staff comes up with this stuff?
Sure, it would be nice to have a mechanism to improve the appearance of vacant properties, but misrepresenting the revenue side of the equation is irresponsible. News flash - You won't ever see $500 per day from anyone - ever! Maybe just have public works cut the grass and lien the vacant house for the actual cost plus a 25% admin fee and you'll eventually get paid - most of the time.
Just stick to keeping the jack boot of government on the neck of the homeowner who is having trouble selling or renting his property. They really need more regulation and cost. Where's the little Realtor in this discussion. She - of all people - should know better.

Live free or die!


Charging a family $500 a day after they are broke is the same as fining people in Port of Prince for living under plastic covers!
If you want an empty house prettied up get an authorization to clean it up whenever we get some more judges to apply to!

Technically, the house belongs to a bank in the case of a foreclosure and even when they don't want it foreclosed to avoid maintaining it.

Folks, lets don't rub salt in wounded soldiers wounds to punish them for getting shot! Even if they were shot in the arse.

Now if we are going to fine a broke family for a high lawn, what should we fine British Petroleum, Halliburton (managers of the job), and whomever gave them permission to rig up such a failure?

Drilling like that is akin to R. Reagan's "star wars" fiasco. Didn't have a second shut-off valve? Forgetting about what happens to things one mile below the sea? Ignoring warnings about methane (did the mine owners teach them that?)

Yeah, what we need is less regulation of business people.

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