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Huntington considers charging a fee to inspect abandoned homes

An abandoned house in Huntington is shown on

An abandoned house in Huntington is shown on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely

Town of Huntington officials want to add to their arsenal in the effort to address vacant and abandoned properties.

The town board will have a public hearing next month to consider an amendment to town code that would set a fee to be paid to the town when it investigates if a property is vacant.

Town Board member Susan Berland, the sponsor of the resolution, said the change would also assist the county in its Vacant and Abandoned Property Part in Suffolk County Supreme Court. That court keeps a list of homes involved in the foreclosure process.

The court places properties designated as vacant by a municipality on an expedited court calendar that allows lenders to petition for a default judgment and the sale of the property, town officials said.

"We have to identify and confirm that properties are in fact vacant," Berland said. Public Safety Department officials have "been conducting all the inspections and not charging anybody, but other towns actually require a fee prior to inspection to assist in the cost."

The amount of the fee has yet to be determined. The cost will be added onto the property tax bill and paid by whomever is determined by the court to be the property owner.

Berland said it's important to quickly identify abandoned and vacant homes, but it's a costly process.

"We have to send inspectors out, go through the motions, paperwork; so there should be a fee that addresses that," she said.

The town has a so-called blight list that allows points for conditions to be assigned to a property. When a property reaches 100 points for those conditions, a public hearing is set to address its overall condition and a letter is sent to the owner.

In May, town officials organized a consortium of industry professionals to recommend ways to expedite rehabilitating dilapidated, abandoned homes, including those known as zombie houses that are mired in the foreclosure process.

The hearing will be Aug. 11 at 2 p.m. at Town Hall, 100 Main St.

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