Friday, April 8, 2011


A few weeks ago I was walking to the mailbox and boom! I saw the familiar red and white sticker on the door of a house indicating a condemned house.  This one is 6 doors down from me. My husband immediately called Code Enforcement to find out the details. It turns out that the resident was not taking care of the property and due to unsanitary conditions it was shut down.

It is a really sad story about the house to begin with. When we moved into the block almost 30 years ago now, a widower and his daughter lived there. The daughter was in elementary school at the time. The daughter has since grown up and her father was sent to a nursing home and she lived there on and off with her occasional boyfriend. Normally it would not be a problem, but she has some issues and she seems to be unable to take care of herself or the house. We were encouraged about the boyfriend for a while, but he is not really that much better. They keep to themselves and aside from the occasional nod they are not really the neighborly type.

Condemnation is done for a variety of reasons. In most cases the house is considered unfit because of unsanitary conditions. It could be from a fire, or in most cases, pure neglect in which case structural damage can crop up or unsanitary conditions that can render it uninhabitable. Generally, code enforcement will come in and give a list of things that need to be done to correct the situation and it is up to the property owner to fix things in a reasonable timeframe. This assumes the owner is known and can be found. This can be a problem because people just up and leave and they ignore the citations. If the bank owns the property, or it’s tied up in court proceedings, then the resolution can be very time consuming. If the house continues in such a condition, it could be slated for demolition but that could be another 10 years down the road. This can begin to be an issue for the attached house, if there is one, because it can begin to cause structural damage to the other house as well and then two structures end up being razed due to neglect.

While the property sits it can be a magnet for vagrants, animals (the four legged kind), and of course the grass and trash could become unmanageable if there no one is willing to step forward to help. On our block the later is less likely to happen as most of our neighbors are the kind to step in and help out if needed. But it requires constant attention to make sure it does not get out of hand.

So this is a situation that will likely have several updates to it. Perhaps a group of helpful people can help fix the place up for the owner. Or maybe a builder can buy the property and fix it and sell it. I feel pretty confident that this property will have a happy ending, but it will take time.  Maybe the lessons learned from this one can help others in the town. More to come.

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