(WSVN) - It’s not unusual to see a house empty for a couple of years, deteriorating and bringing down values of all the homes around it. But a house like that for over a decade, legally, is that OK? Here is tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Many neighborhoods in South Florida are nice, but even some nice neighborhoods have that house.
Kathy Morgenstern, neighbor: “It doesn’t look as bad from the front, but if you go to the back, it’s horrible.”
This is that house in Tamarac.
Kathy Morgenstern: “It’s even more gross. Oh, my gosh. I never saw so much mold.”
Mold inside because the windows are left open. A leaking roof that has brought down parts of the ceiling. The dripping water helps plants grow up through the floors.
And then there is the pool.
Kathy Morgenstern: “The pool is beyond black.”
When we were here, the pool was recently drained. But neighbors say it’s often filled.
Kathy Morgenstern: “I am concerned for the kids.”
The black water is paradise for mosquitoes.
Kathy Morgenstern: “And we were worried about Zika and all that this past summer.”
There are many empty, rotting houses like this in South Florida, but this one is different because it has been unoccupied and deteriorating for 12 years.
Kathy Morgenstern: “No electric, no water in that house for well over 12 years.”
Property records show it’s been owned since 1998 by two women who list their address in Baltimore, Maryland.
One of the neighbors tried to attempt to reach them. They pretty much hung up on them and said, ‘Don’t ever call here again.'”
The homeowners association tried to foreclose on the property owners for unpaid assessments, but the owners paid the $4,559 judgment before they could foreclose.
The City of Tamarac has slapped four liens on the the property for various violations. When the total climbed to $10,975, the owners paid it.
Four times, the owners faced foreclosure for not paying property taxes. Each time, they paid the taxes before the property was auctioned off.
Leaving their neighbors with a question — why just let the house sit there?
Kathy Morgenstern: “That’s an asset to something. To just let it sit there and rot? Doesn’t make any sense to me.”
A true mess, and for 12 years, a neighborhood’s headache.
Howard, legally, what else can be done?
Howard Finkelstein: “This is baffling. When the government fines you for not maintaining a property, most people correct the problem. In this case, it has been going on for years, and the fines don’t seem to bother the owners, leaving one option. The Unsafe Structures Board could tear the house down, but it has be be declared unsafe. If it is not, there is nothing that can be done.”
The spokesman for Tamarac said this is frustrating for the neighbors and the city.
Elise Boston says the owners get violations and liens, take it to the edge, then fix it.
Elise Boston: “There are currently two violations: the black pool and the unkempt yard.”
When I asked why the city doesn’t take the building to the Unsafe Structures Board, Boston was told the house has violations, but it’s not an unsafe structure.
Finally, I got an answer to the question the neighbors have been asking. While the owners didn’t respond to us, one owner’s brother, who mows the grass, did.
I asked Louis Samuels, since it just sits there, getting worse every day, why don’t the women sell it?
His reply: “They just don’t want to.”
He said, “They are in the works to fix it up.”
I said, “Would they sell it then?”
He said, “They may, but they may not.”
Kathy Morgenstern: “It’s a nightmare. It’s an eyesore.”
And unless something suddenly changes, it will continue to be that house in this neighborhood.
Kathy Morgenstern: “When we first moved here, it was a nice house. It was in good shape. And to just let it go like that is a sin.”
It doesn’t make sense. One thought in Tamarac: monitor the house closely, keep fining them, and hopefully the owners will decide to fix it up or sell it. That may work, or it may not.
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