Blight is a serious problem for inland cities. It compromises neighborhood livability, decreases property values, and contributes to higher rates of crime and nuisance activity. While the City of San Bernardino’s Community Development Department and Police Department work tirelessly to address these problems with traditional administrative and criminal enforcement methods, not all property owners are responsive to these efforts. Often times, despite numerous notices and fines, violations are not corrected and serious health and safety hazards are allowed to persist at a property.
In an effort to improve the quality of life for residents, the City has implemented RENU San Bernardino, an enforcement program aimed at tackling problem properties through the initiation of nuisance abatement litigation. With RENU, the City files receivership actions against unresponsive property owners in civil court pursuant to the California Health and Safety Code § 17980.7 which allows a city to request the appointment of a receiver when a property owner has failed to bring a dangerously substandard building into compliance within a reasonable time after being notified of the substandard conditions.
When a petition to appoint a receiver is granted, the problem property becomes the responsibility of a court-appointed receiver. Throughout the process, the receiver is an agent of the Court—not the City—and must act evenhandedly with respect to the property and all litigants. The receiver's duties include, but are not limited to, taking full and complete possession of the property, managing that property and paying all operating expenses, taxes, insurance and utilities. If the property contains rental units, the receiver may collect all rents and income from the subject property and use those funds to pay for the costs of operating and rehabilitating the property. The receiver is also empowered to obtain court-approved financing to completely rehabilitate the property. Any occupants of the property may be temporarily or permanently relocated to implement the receivership plan. After the rehabilitation is complete, the court may order the property sold and the proceeds distributed to cover unpaid taxes, receivership costs, the City’s costs of enforcement, and any existing loans with the remainder going to the previous owner.
The City Attorney’s Office first launched RENU in Fall 2014 with the appointment of a receiver over a dangerously substandard single-family residence across the street from a middle school. Numerous substandard properties have been remediated since then, including single family residences, multi-family residences, and commercial structures. Not only has the City been able to recover all of RENU’s program costs through the litigation, but by removing the blighted conditions, property values have increased and future enforcement costs have been saved.