City cleans, demos dilapidated homes, but owners pay

Published 10:15 am Thursday, August 13, 2015


: What happens to dilapidated houses when homeowners won’t clean them up?


Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

: When a property gets to a point of disrepair or neglect as to be a nuisance or an eyesore for the neighborhood, the city often steps in to make some changes. Work is done at the owner’s expense, however, and the process the city follows to clean up these areas is spelled out by state law.

Residents who know of properties needing to be cleaned or torn down may report them to their alderman or the City Inspector’s Office directly. City Inspector David Fearn said once a good list of properties is worked out, a public hearing is planned. Then, Fearn said, certified letters are sent to the owners of the properties stating the city’s intentions to discuss the cleanup of their properties at the upcoming public hearing and requesting their attendance.

At the public hearing, Fearn presents the properties and the Board of Aldermen discusses whether or not to proceed. Fearn said anyone who shows up can speak about why they do not want the city to intervene or what they can do to avoid being charged for the cleanup. The property owner is charged for the city’s time and services through a lien against the property.

“Generally the aldermen give them 30 days from the time of the public hearing to clean it up themselves,” Fearn said. “[If they choose not to] the city goes in and cleans it up, whether it’s mowing the lot or taking structures down and hauling them away.”

The public hearing process of demolishing dilapidated houses and cleaning up properties is held in accordance to state law. Often people call the city to ask about purchasing the properties, Fearn said, but the city does not own the properties they hold public hearings about. The original owner retains the property but if the property is eventually sold at a tax sale because taxes haven’t been paid, that lien must still be satisfied by the new owner.

The last hearing was held June 16 with 13 properties slated for clean up. Fearn said all but one or two properties have been cleaned up. The next public hearing concerning properties in poor shape is planned for September.