WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A home that neighbors have either been complaining about or ignoring for the last 20 years could soon cost the homeowner more than just yearly property taxes or a monthly mortgage.
According to the city of Winston-Salem, housing inspectors have looked into 70 cases of reported violations at a home in the 2900 block of Weisner Court dating back to 1996.
The complaints have ranged from trash to weed complaints, but the city is now in the process of taking legal action to the impose fines against the homeowner for minimum housing violations.
Neighbors have watched the house deteriorate for years. Vines are growing up the side of the home and there are holes in the chimney. Long ago, water and power were disconnected from the home and many neighbors watch the homeowner sleep in her car in the driveway.
“Nothing against the lady that lives there, but I wish they would come in and make her clean it up, fix it up or tear it down,” said Debbie Brooks, a neighbor who said she used to be friends with the homeowner several years ago.
City officials said addressing the issues takes time because there are property rights to consider.
“We have to look at it from the standpoint of what can we do? What does the code allow us to do and in many instances that is a minimum,” said Bruce Bailiff, the housing inspector supervisor for the city.
Bailiff said most complaints about things such as overgrown weeds and trash are inspected within two to three days of a complaint.
The homeowner is usually given two weeks to fix the issue. Sometimes proceedings can delay the enforcement of issues by several weeks, according to Bailiff.
The Weisner home is one that Bailiff called a chronic violator, which means that inspectors do routine checks on the home. He said recent inspections have found minimum housing violations that take time to address.
“We have issued a repair order. We've had a hearing and once we have a repair order then it's deemed to be unfit for human habitation,” said Bailiff.
If a court rules in the city’s favor and issues are not addressed civil penalties starting at $350 for the first day and $100 for every day could start being assessed.
“City staff is doing everything they can within the confines of the law,” said Bailiff. “The best thing I can recommend to the citizens is to contact City Link 311 and make sure we have current cases, that we're aware of any conditions on that property or for that matter any other property in the city that they might be concerned about.”