Recent reporting in Florida discussed “aggressive code enforcement” by a 3rd party.

Revenue is always a major need and focus. However, similar to charging excessive fees and aggressive pursuit of penalties for vacant property registries (VPRO’s) non-compliance, aggressive pursuit of foreclosure for unpaid code violations clearly can have unexpected and unwanted consequences.

The original article, provided one eye-opening quote “I don’t know what we’re going to do with them, to be honest,” indicating that the full process was perhaps not thought through.

The most recent article provided several more.

An original goal was to target properties owned by real estate speculators. But here again it appears the process wasn’t thought through as “these foreclosures have often had the opposite effect, taking properties out of the hands of individual owners and delivering them to real estate speculators, and at a discount.”

“Perverse incentive” is what the article calls promises “to help them (municipalities) reap millions in untapped revenue — but with no money up front.”

These contingency fee agreements, may work better in the private sector, or as the article discusses in select instances in the public sector. However, they definitely don’t work in the public sector, if not fully thought through, the 3rd party is left unchecked and unilaterally makes decisions – unless all that one sees are dollar signs.

Not the approach public entities, such as cities and states, “which are expected to take into account the broader public interest when deciding whether to pursue legal action.”

Two (somewhat) positive thoughts to close with.

The article discusses one municipality where it appears the appropriate safeguards are in place “[He] only acts on matters the City directs him to act on. Nothing more,” La Venia said. “That’s how the City wants it. This City is very conservative in these matters.” This is an appropriate checks and balances to ensure that only the proper cases are   aggressively pursued.

When set up correctly it would invalidate the statement “There isn’t a substantial reason why these can’t be done in-house,” he said. Using the right 3rd party has many benefits.

Finally, at least this issue pertains to the “end” and not the “means”.

The goal in the blight fight is a well maintained property in productive use. A vacant property registry (VPR) is a “means” to that “end”.

Aggressiveness pertaining to the “means” has resulted in dangerous ordinance language, perhaps in violation of federal privacy laws, excessive registration fees that will be difficult to justify, along with negative headlines/optics.

Non-compliance with a VPR is no different than any other non-compliance. However, untethered aggressive pursuit of non-compliance penalties for “just” the “means” can have unwanted consequences.

The promise of “reaping millions in untapped revenue with no money up front,” should not be the driving force in creating a VPR or using a 3rd party to administer it. Unless of course, once again, all that one sees are dollar signs.