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Vacant houses can legally go months without upkeep

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As vacant houses can drive down property values and make neighborhoods more dangerous, neighbors are fed up that properties can lawfully go months without being touched, even if they’re cited.

Darlene Davis said not only is a house in her Lewisville neighborhood not being maintained. The house’s problems are going through the neighborhood.

“Now the mice and the snakes and the rats are moving in and spreading out into the neighborhood–into my house specifically,” Davis said.

Besides critters, vacant homes can also attract crime. Sgt. Bud Blaylock with Greensboro Police said he caught two copper thieves with pipes in their hands at an old Greensboro nursing home last October.

Blaylock said that arrest hasn’t stopped criminals from preying on that or other vacant buildings.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a magnet for crime, but certainly it provides an opportunity for the criminal,” Blaylock said.

Davis said she has tried to get help from Lewsville town officials, but the vacant property continues to be a nuisance.

“I just get answers of, ‘We’re aware of the problem. We’ll see what we can do.’ Nobody can seem to get anything done.”

But Lewisville Town Planner Marty Myers said his hands are tied by the rights of the home’s owners, who have months to fix a problem even after getting a citation.

“At the end of the day, you really are seeking some type of action on their part to better the property,” Myers said.

Forcing property owners to fix up vacant homes is difficult and time-consuming, which leaves both government officials and Davis to deal with the mess.

“The reality needs to be if the owner doesn’t want it, they should hand it over to someone who will maintain it,” Davis said.

Lewisville city officials said they hope to find a buyer for the vacant house near Davis to take care of what they call a blight on the neighborhood.