This is a bit off topic but also falls somewhat in the area of home improvement in that it addresses houses that have been abandoned and are vacant and becoming eyesores.
The house next door has been in that category for about 2.5 years. I've done as much research as I can, spent quite a bit of time tracking down responsible parties, and spoken with a number of people to identify the current mortgagee, which has done absolutely nothing in the 2.5 years except hire a service to mow the lawn.
I've contacted them re the broken glass in the front door, possibility of attempted break-ins due to doors ajar, holes in the basement window sills which could admit critters, piles of debris, liability hazards, etc. My pleas have gone unanswered.
I've also contacted the City, which has responded favorably. But there's a limit to its responsibility for this eyesore. Other than clean up the mess and bill the mortgagee, there's not much it can do.
The mortgagee hasn't responded, hasn't foreclosed and is just allowing the house to sit and deteriorate.
I want to get some action, but other than report it to the City and/or make anonymous calls to the local TV stations, I'm kind of at a loss what to do. I've explored the legal options and gotten nowhere.
One of the reasons I'm so mad is that there are two monstrous box elder trees in the front yard that are feeding on my waste lines and costing me an extra $300 or more a year in sewer cleanout costs.
Anyone have any suggestions for getting the mortgagee to do something about this dump?
I can think of three approaches:
1. Again with the city. You are correct in that the city can only step in when things reach a certain point of "badness". It is encouraging that they have forced some cleanup to happen to this place already. The city can also step in whenever the property reached a 'condemned' status or if it becomes an 'attractive nuisance'. This would make it a danger to the area. Here too though, the city is limited to either forcing the owner to make repairs or force them to demolish. The demolish option would only happen if the house is officially condemned. Your local building codes department would be the place to initiate this.
2. Don't give up on your local TV stations or even newspapers. Many have community activist areas to handle stories like the old, run-down house that has become an eyesore to the neighborhood. A little bit of publicity never hurt anyone's cause for something like this.
3. Finally, in the area of their tree roots destroying your sewer lines - it may be hard to get them to do something about this from their end but that doesn't mean that you are powerless. Once those tree roots cross over into your property then they are yours - especially if those roots are damaging your property. You should be able to go ahead and cut any roots near your sewer lines.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Jaybee,
I cant help with the abandoned house but maybe I can help with the sewer problem
I believe that if the roots are penetrating the line, then you have an orangeburg pipe which has been discontinued for many years because of just that reason.I wont go into what o'burg pipe is as you can google it.
If roots are penetrating it at the joints, then you have a leaky sewer line that only feeds more roots, etc,etc.
Your going to have to replace the o'burg with either ABS or PVC pipe with as few joints as possible, meaning 20 ft lengths.
Another suggestion would be to wrap the new pipe joints with copper sheet, which will form copper oxide which is a herbicide and the existing roots will eventually die and new roots will shun the area You might even be able to do this with the old pipe, though I doubt it
I also saw on a TV program where the plumbing company used special machinery that lined the old pipe with a fiberglass sleeve internally, eliminating all joints.
here's a link http://www.pipelt.com/trenchless-sewer-repair/
but I know nothing about it other than what I saw
Here's another link from the same site
Maybe some of the plumbers on this site can be of more helpThis message has been edited. Last edited by: nona,
Jaybee, thanks for the good suggestions, which I've been mulling over since reading your post. I did some quick research on Michigan statutes governing abandonment as well as the basis for condemnation and found that the house may qualify. I need to do a bit more research to determine the best route to take; my city has fairly severe financial problems and may not feel up to taking on this issue. Then I may have to get the county government involved.
But I'm also tempted to let the media take the first step; they have more power than I do and can tarnish a bank's reputation more quickly with their media exposure. Banks don't have have the best rep these days anyway.
Nona, thanks for the suggestions on the sewer issues. I checked out Orangeburg pipe and think you're right. I'm creating a separate post under Plumbing (when I can cut the post down to readable size) as there are some more issues that developed today after the plumbers' visit.
Would you have any objection if I copied your post to my as-yet-to-be posted one so that all these issues can be together?
Thanks again to both of you for taking the time to help.
I'll post any updates on both issues as they occur.
no problem, sprite, just include the links as they will be helpful for those that never heard of the liners. You might also check with some of the larger plumbing companies in you area, or nearby area, to see if they provide that service. If you want to research it further, google "internal repairs to sewer lines "
The outside appearance of a house is a good indicator of whether it is occupied or not. Find out it's owner and try to contact with him. You may also call the local relevant government department and ask about the property.
Thanks for the suggestions. I'm still trying to sort out the plumbing issues and options but if you don't mind I'll just copy your post when I create a new one with all my myriad questions.
I appreciate your thoughts. Apparently I wasn't clear as to some issues, so let me address the ones you raised.
The owner of record died several years ago and is still reflected in recorded documents as the owner even though she's been dead for years. A family member who was living there died 2.5 years ago. There is no indication whether or not this individual was an heir or was just living there. It's also unclear whether or not the owner of record had a will and/or who the heirs were if designated.
The only public record of heirs to my knowledge would be a filed will, of which there was none. Those who would be heirs statutorily under Michigan law if the individual(s) died w/o a will told me no one in the family even wanted the house and said they planned to just "let it go". In fact, they even refused to go in the house to clean it out.
One of the boarders told me the family members specifically didn't notify the mortgagees of the owner's death because two of the loans would have been accelerated at that time.
Since the owner of record is dead, it's unknown whether there are any designated heirs, and the statutory heirs refuse any responsibility for the house, the next responsible party would be the mortgagee(s) of which there were 3.
I've contacted the Register of Deeds to determine the identify of the mortgagees and then contacted the first, second and third mortgagees.
I've also contacted the local County News which publishes foreclosure notices, the Sheriff's Department which handles foreclosure sales, MERS, attorney for the then foreclosing mortgagee and various city departments as well.
The first and second mortgagees have subordinated their interests but also plan to write off their mortgagees. So they're essentially "out of the picture."
Apparently the original 3rd mortgagee initiated foreclosure but terminated it when it assigned the mortgage in January of this year. That original entity can't be identified because it was a MERS mortgage and MERS won't respond to my inquiries, which is typical for MERS.
Responsibility now rests with the assignee of MERS. After multiple calls, I was advised that a certain individual at a well known bank is now handling the property. I have called and e-mailed him, but he has not responded. My options are attempting to contact him again, and/or attempt to contact his supervisor.
I was present when some of the utilities were turned off outside. Online usage records reflect no water use at all for the period of time since the last occupant died.
The outside of the house and yard have been littered with junk for 2.5 years and still are other than when the City sends someone to clean it up. Then solicitors throw more flyers and junk on the porch. At my request the City did clean up the furniture littering the back patio and arranged for the grass to be mowed after it reached about 18" in height.
At one time the third mortgagee was managing the lawn mowing, but advised the City last year that it would no longer be continuing this responsibility. This was the month before the third mortgage was assigned.
The glass on the front door is broken out. There is hand delivered (and dumped) litter on the front porch, as well as a moldy piece of furniture which has been outside and deteriorating for 2.5 years.
No one is living there unless it's insects and 4 legged critters and I wouldn't be surprised if the raccoons colonized the garage when the door was left open for months.
The City offices I contacted were very helpful, but their information was limited to information on who was managing the lawn and paying the taxes last year. As indicated, that party advised last year it would no longer be handling these issues.
I have not contacted them again as I am still deciding the best way to proceed to get actions by the current assignee of the third mortgage.
Almost a dead end, except for the bank employee who allegedly is responsible but hasn't returned my phone call or e-mail.This message has been edited. Last edited by: GardenSprite,
Sounds like the city I live in as well. Sadly the pennies are pulled out of the cash drawer at city hall every business day to accrue interest.
I have been told by a realtor friend that over 900 homes are vacant in the four local towns and townships. Code officers do very little as very little can be done. Homeowners just walk away from properties but some of the better ones will find a new life via county sheriff sales. But that is of little hope as they are bought up by slum lords to turn into HUD rentals.
Sucky place to be when all the industry left town thanks to the fine folk in Washington.
Nona, wish you the best of luck with the problems that fell into your lap.
Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...
CS, sorry to learn you're dealing with a similar problem, albeit on an apparently wider basis.
You're right that code officers are limited. In addition, in my city their hours have been cut from 40 to 16, so all they can do is focus on the most glaring violations. Even then, when the house is abandoned or foreclosed, some issues can be addressed but there's not necessarily someone responsible who even cares. In a bank's inventory, it's just another liabiity that should be turned into an asset but may never be.
We've had some problems with rentals as well that have been purchased by would-be landlords who lack respect for the local code laws, and in one case can't seem to keep tenants. One house has been vacant for almost a year now, but at least the lawn is mowed and the house looks decent.
I've wondered often what happens to the interior of a house when it's without heat, cooling or any kind of ventilation for extended periods of time. I can't even begin to imagine, nor do I want to, what kind of odors might develop.
I've been thinking of researching to see if I can find some grass roots organizations as Jaybee suggested.
This may be a long shot to get someone's attention, but here goes. In my city, it is a misdemeanor to deliver flyers to the door or yard of any house that 1) says they don't want them or 2) is obviously vacant or 3) has flyers there that have not picked up. I successfully had an arrogant business owner prosecuted under this statute for violating all three standards. Got a big fine and probation, because he was obnoxious, most likely, with the police. This will only draw attention to the property - doesn't really help the issue or abandonment, but does help with the litter. I'm wondering if you have such a city code too?
CS, I was just reading that Detroit has either 60,000 or 80,000 abandoned structures, depending on which source provides the data. That's almost unimaginable. Not that it makes the 900 in your area any less problematic.
Mosternaz, I've been searching my city's codes to see if I can find an anti-littering ordinance and so far haven't found one, but I'm still researching.
Did you convince your local or county authorities to sue the repeatly offending business owner? I like this idea; I'm going to raise it with my city officials after I do some more research.
I did find that the trees are in violation of the ordinances. They hang down too far over the sidewalk and partially block vehicular view. So I can at least use that.
And I think the telephone pole leaning against a tree might be an attractive nuisance, and the piled up branches might be blight but I want to find the specific ordinances.
Thanks for the suggestion; this may be a good way to start. The mortgagee can ignore the mess but it will have to pay the fines before it can dispose of the property as they'll be liens against title.
I also plan to complain after every snowfall when the walk isn't shoveled, as I know there is a 24-hour removal ordinance.
Garden Sprite - what I did after repeatedly telling him to stop, was fax the owner to stop delivering - he would through bags of rocks in the yard with a flyer attached. Several neighbors did the same. When he continued, I researched our ordinance on handbills and found that it was illegal if I asked him to stop and also illegal to deliver to obviously abandoned homes. I learned it was also illegal to put them on cars (who knew!) The next time he did it, I went around the neighborhood and took date stamped pictures of the vacant properties, most of which had several bags of rocks. I gave all of it to the city, with a statement and a copy of the letter with the fax confirmation. He was fined close to $4,000 and a year probation (I'm guessing there were other PO'd people!). I didn't even know he had been convicted until I called the city a year later to see what happened.
I was always tempted to tell him that I was in the manure business and to drop a free truckload sample on his driveway. :-)
Mosternaz, thanks for the details on the problem with the litterer. Was this person throwing rocks with his flyers to anchor them, or just throwing rocks to be obnoxious? I've never heard of this practice (and am glad no one in this area has thought of it!).
You had a good plan of documentation, especially the date stamped photos.
I'm also going to check the local ordinances and state statutes for anti-littering provisions. Even if I can get the litterers, there might be some options against the bank holding the priority mortgage for allowing the litter to accumulate.
Thanks for sharing your experience and insights; they've given me some ideas on how to approach the problem next door.