Chapter 246
2024 -- S 2992 SUBSTITUTE A
Enacted 06/24/2024

A N   A C T
RELATING TO PROPERTY -- ABANDONED PROPERTY

Introduced By: Senators Kallman, McKenney, and Burke

Date Introduced: April 16, 2024

It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:
     SECTION 1. Chapter 34-44 of the General Laws entitled "Abandoned Property" is hereby
amended by adding thereto the following section:
     34-44-1.1. Inventory of abandoned properties.
     (a) On or before April 2, 2025, each town and city shall publish a list of all properties
located in each respective town or city which, based on inspection and records, may qualify as
abandoned property under this chapter. After April 2, 2025, the list shall be published and updated
annually and made available in the town or city clerk's office and on the municipal website. Notice
of the inclusion of a property on the abandoned properties list shall be provided to the last known
record owner or owners as available from the tax assessor records by first class mail, postage pre-
paid. The exclusion of any property from a city or town list shall not disqualify any property from
the provisions of this chapter, so long as the court makes the requisite findings as set forth herein.
     (b) The publication of a list under this section shall not constitute grounds for legal claims
against a municipality by the record owner or any interested party.
     SECTION 2. Sections 34-44-3, 34-44-4 and 34-44-12 of the General Laws in Chapter 34-
44 entitled "Abandoned Property" are hereby amended to read as follows:
     34-44-3. Injunctive relief and other relief.
     (a) In any proceeding,:
     (1) Brought brought under chapter 27.3 of title 23 entitled the Rhode Island state building
code, and any violation of the provisions of those regulations promulgated by the state building
code standards committee entitled SBC-1 Rhode Island state building code, SBC-2 Rhode Island
state one and two family dwelling code, SBC-3 Rhode Island state plumbing code, SBC-4 Rhode
Island state mechanical code, SBC-5 Rhode Island state electrical code, SBC-6 state property
maintenance code, SBC-19 state fuel gas code or any municipal ordinance or regulation concerning
minimum housing standards, that is before a state court, municipal court, housing division of a state
or municipal court, or in any proceeding; or
     (2) Brought upon a verified petition for abatement filed in the state court by the municipal
corporation in which the property involved is located, by any neighboring landowner, or by a
nonprofit corporation, registered to do business in the state, that is duly organized and has as one
of its goals the improvement of housing conditions for low- and moderate-income persons in the
municipality in which the property in question is located, if a building is alleged to be abandoned
and either to be in a dangerous or unsafe condition or to be otherwise in violation of chapter 27.3
of title 23 entitled the Rhode Island state building code, and any violation of the provisions of those
regulations promulgated by the state building code standards committee entitled SBC-1 Rhode
Island state building code, SBC-2 Rhode Island state one and two family dwelling code, SBC-3
Rhode Island state plumbing code, SBC-4 Rhode Island state mechanical code, SBC-5 Rhode
Island state electrical code, SBC-6 state property maintenance code, SBC-19 state fuel gas code or
any municipal ordinance or regulation concerning building or housing,; the municipal corporation,
neighboring landowner, or nonprofit corporation may apply for an injunction requiring the owner
of the building to correct the condition or to eliminate the violation which request shall include
evidence of the condition(s) alleged satisfactory to the court, in its discretion.
     There (b) Unless the court finds an immediate need, due to public safety, for a shortened
period, there shall be a hearing at least twenty (20) days after a summons for an injunction,
indicating the date and time of the hearing is served upon the owner of the building. The summons
shall be served by personal service, residence service, or service by certified mail pursuant to Rule
4 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure R.I. Super. Ct. R. Civ. P. 4. If service cannot be
made in one of these ways, the notice shall be served by posting it in a conspicuous place on the
building and by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality in which the
building is located. If the court finds at the hearing that the building is abandoned and either is in a
dangerous or unsafe condition or is otherwise in violation of any ordinance or regulation concerning
minimum housing standards, it shall issue an injunction requiring the owner to correct the condition
or to eliminate the violation, or any other order that it considers necessary or appropriate to correct
the condition or to eliminate the violation.
     34-44-4. Public nuisance determination — Show cause hearing — Appointment of
receiver.
     (a) In any proceeding described in § 34-44-3 of this chapter, if after the court makes the
finding described in that section and additionally finds that the building in question constitutes a
public nuisance and that the owner of the building has been afforded reasonable opportunity to
begin correcting the dangerous or unsafe condition found or to begin eliminating the violation
found and has refused or failed to do so, the court shall cause notice of its findings to be served
upon the owner, each mortgagee or other lienholder of record, and any other interested party, and
shall order the parties to show cause why a receiver should not be appointed to perform, or cause
to be performed, any work and to furnish any material that reasonably may be required to abate the
public nuisance. The notice shall be served in the same manner as described in § 34-44-3 of this
chapter.
     (b) Before appointing a receiver to perform, or cause to be performed, any work to abate a
public nuisance under this chapter, the court shall conduct a hearing at which any mortgagee of
record or lienholder of record, or other interested party in the order of his or her their priority of
interest in title shall be offered the opportunity to undertake the work and to furnish the materials
as are necessary to abate the public nuisance.
     (c) The court shall require the party selected to demonstrate the ability promptly to
undertake the work required, to provide the judge with a viable financial and construction plan for
the rehabilitation of the building, and to post security for the performance of the work.
     (d) All amounts expended by the party toward abating the public nuisance shall be a lien
on the property if the expenditures were approved in advance by the court and if the party desires
such a lien. The lien shall bear the interest, and shall be payable upon the terms approved by the
court. The lien shall have the same priority as the mortgage of a receiver, as set forth in § 34-44-6,
if a certified copy of the court order that approved the expenses, the interest, and the terms of
payment of the lien, and a description of the property in question are filed for record, within thirty
(30) days of the date of issuance of the order, in the office of the recorder of deeds of the
municipality in which the property is located.
     (e) If the court determines at the hearing that no party can undertake the work and furnish
the materials required to abate the public nuisance, or if the court determines at any time after the
hearing that any party who is undertaking corrective work pursuant to this chapter cannot or will
not proceed, or has not proceeded with due diligence, the judge may appoint a receiver to take
possession and control of the property. The receiver shall be appointed in the manner provided in
subsection (c)(f).
     (c)(f) No person shall be appointed a receiver unless he or she the person first has provided
the court with a viable financial and construction plan for the rehabilitation of the property in
question and has demonstrated the capacity and expertise to perform, or cause to be performed, the
required work in a satisfactory manner.
     (g) Prior to the appointment of a receiver the court may grant access to the property in
question to any person who applies to be appointed the receiver of the property, for the limited
purpose of developing a viable financial and construction plan for the rehabilitation of the property
which shall include the items set forth in § 34-44-4.1.
     (h) The appointed receiver may be a financial institution that possesses an interest of record
in the property, a nonprofit corporation that is duly organized and has as one of its goals the
improvement of housing conditions for low and moderate income persons in the municipality in
which the property in question is located, or any other qualified property manager who certifies
that any rehabilitation of the property in question will not result in the long term displacement of
low and moderate income persons shall be a lawyer appointed by the court who is certified by the
court to act as such.
     34-44-12. Sale of building and property by receiver.
     (a) If a receiver appointed pursuant to § 34-44-4 files with the judge in the civil action
described in § 34-44-4 a report indicating that the public nuisance has been abated, and if the judge
confirms that the receiver has abated the public nuisance, and if the receiver or any interested party
requests the judge to enter an order directing the receiver to sell the building and the property on
which it is located, then the judge may enter that order after holding a hearing as described in
subsection (b).(c).; or
     (b)(1) If the abatement of the nuisance has not yet occurred; and
     (2) If the court approves the abatement plan presented by the receiver or any interested
party; and
     (3) The building at the subject property is unoccupied, then the court may enter an order,
upon the receiver's recommendation, directing the receiver to sell the building and property upon
which it is located after holding a hearing as described in subsection (c) of this section. Any sale
order and sale deed under this subsection shall include a requirement that the transfer of the property
include a reverter if the abatement plan is not completed in accordance with its terms and in the
timeframe established in the plan. The abatement of the property by the purchaser shall be at the
purchaser's sole cost and expense.
     (b)(c) The receiver or interested party requesting an order as described in subsection (a)
subsections subsection (a) or (b) of this section shall cause a notice of the date and time of a hearing
on the request to be served on the owner of the building involved and all other interested parties in
accordance with § 34-44-3. The judge in the civil action described in § 34-44-3 shall conduct the
scheduled hearing. At the hearing, if the owner or any interested party objects to the sale of the
building and the property, the burden of proof shall be upon the objecting person to establish, by a
preponderance of the evidence, that the benefits of not selling the building and the property
outweigh the benefits of selling them. If the judge determines that there is no objecting person, or
if he or she the judge determines that there is one or more objecting persons but no objecting person
has sustained the burden of proof specified herein, the judge may enter an order directing the
receiver to offer the building and the property for sale upon terms and conditions that the judge
shall specify, and may further order the removal of any clouds on the title to the building and
property by reason of any liens or encumbrances that are inferior to any claims of the receiver, as
provided by § 34-44-6(9), or if the receivership action is pending in a court other than the superior
court, the judge may order the receiver to petition the superior court to order the removal of any
clouds on the title to the building or property. An order by the superior court to remove any cloud
on the title to the building and property shall be binding upon all those claiming by, through, under,
or by virtue of, any inferior liens or encumbrances.
     (d) The court may give priority in a sale to any party willing to:
     (1) Designate and deed restrict the property for low- and moderate-income housing, as
defined in § 45-53-3; or
     (2) Resell the property at least ten percent (10%) below an appraised market value; or
     (3) Designate any residential units in the property for occupancy through any housing
choice voucher program; or
     (4) Restrict use of the property to owner-occupancy for a period of not less than twenty-
four (24) months from the date of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy.
     The waiver of any portion of the delinquent real estate taxes or zoning or minimum housing
fines pursuant to subsection (e) of this section may qualify as a municipal subsidy under § 45-53-
3.
     (c)(e) If a sale of a building and the property on which it is located is ordered pursuant to
subsections (a) and (b) through (d) and if the sale occurs in accordance with the terms and
conditions specified by the judge in his or her the judge’s order of sale, then the receiver shall
distribute the proceeds of the sale and the balance of any funds that the receiver may possess, after
the payment of the costs of the sale, in the following order of priority and in the described manner:
     (1) First, the amount due for delinquent taxes and assessments owed to this state or a
political subdivision of this state;
     (2) Second, in satisfaction of any mortgage liability incurred by the receiver pursuant to §
34-44-6 of this chapter, in their order of priority;
     (3) Third, any unreimbursed expenses and other amounts paid in accordance with § 34-44-
6 of this chapter by the receiver, and the fees of the receiver assessed pursuant to § 34-44-8 of this
chapter; and
     (4) Fourth, the amount of any pre-receivership mortgages, liens, or other encumbrances, in
their order of priority.
     (d)(f) Following a distribution in accordance with subsection (c)(e), the receiver shall
request the judge in the civil action described in § 34-44-3 to enter an order terminating the
receivership. If the judge determines that the sale of the building and the property on which it is
located occurred in accordance with the terms and conditions specified by the judge in his or her
order of sale under subsection (b)(c) and that the receiver distributed the proceeds of the sale and
the balance of any funds that the receiver possessed, after the payment of the costs of the sale, in
accordance with subsection (c)(e), and if the judge approves any final accounting required of the
receiver, the judge may terminate the receivership.
     (e)(g) If a judge in a civil action described in § 34-44-3 enters a declaration that a public
nuisance has been abated by a receiver, and if, within three (3) days after the entry of the
declaration, all costs, expenses, and approved fees of the receivership have not been paid in full,
the judge may enter an order directing the receiver to sell the building involved and the property
on which it is located. The order shall be entered, and the sale shall occur, only in compliance with
subsections (b) — (d), as applicable.
     SECTION 3. This act shall take effect upon passage.
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LC005866/SUB A
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