Boarded-up windows contribute to a property's total point score under the new blighted properties code adopted by the town board Sept. 5. Photo: Peter Blasl

Two measures to combat “zombie” and blighted properties in Riverhead were passed by the Riverhead Town Board Wednesday.

A new chapter of the town, code assigns point values to certain undesirable property conditions — ranging from from boarded-up or broken windows and doors to the presence of vermin or rodents, overgrown grass and the presence of unregistered vehicles — and when the total points on a property reaches 100, the property is determined to be blighted.

A blighted property is required to be registered at a fee of $5,000 per year for a commercial building and $2,500 a year for a residential building. The registration fee is added to the property tax bill.

An owner is given 30 days to dispute the determination that the property is blighted by submitting “proof to the contrary.” An owner may enter into a restoration agreement with the town and gain exemption from the registration fee. The agreement will require the owner to correct, on an agreed-upon timeline, the conditions that led to the town’s determination that the site was blighted. Noncompliance with the restoration agreement will result in the assessment of the registration fee.

A second code adopted by the town board yesterday creates a “Mortgage-in-Default Registry” and requires the registration of every property in some stage of foreclosure proceedings.

The mortgagee (bank or other mortgage holder) is required to register a property within 10 days of the date that the mortgagee declares a mortgage to be in default. The mortgagee must also inspect a property declared in default within 10 days of the declaration.

The registration must state the identity of the mortgagee (bank) and mortgage servicer, with their mailing address, email address and telephone number, and also the name, address, e-mail and telephone number of a local property manager who will be responsible for the inspection, security and maintenance of the property. The registration must also state whether the property is vacant.

A semiannual nonrefundable registration fee in the amount of $200 per property is required by the code.

The code places the obligation on the mortgagee to maintain the property in good condition — free of weeds, overgrown brush, dead vegetation, trash, junk, debris, graffiti, etc. — and in a “secure manner,” i.e closed and locked doors and windows. Pools and spas must be kept in working order.

The mortgagee is also required to perform weekly inspections to verify compliance with the requirements of the code.

Failure to comply with the code is a violation punishable by a fine of not less than $250 nor more than $1,000 or a term of imprisonment for a period not to exceed 15 days, or both, for conviction of a first offense, and steeper fines for subsequent convictions within five years.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.