Homeowners told to clean up - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Homeowners told to clean up

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LENOIR, NC (WBTV) -

Jerry Winebarger is tired of seeing the dilapidated home across the street on Piedmont Drive in Lenoir. "It needs to be cleaned up." City officials are working on that.

Nuisance laws have been beefed up in Lenoir and it is more than a housing inspector's job these days.

Police Officer Stacy Whalen-Hall is now assigned to investigate nuisance complaints from a police standpoint in addition to the Housing Inspector's probe. The two-pronged approach, says Whalen-Hall, is paying dividends. "We are seeing places getting cleaned up."

Still, more than 200 complaints have come in to the city in recent months and it will take some time to look at all of them and decide what course of action to take. When something needs to be done, be it graffiti removal or lawns mowed, or structural issues to the building itself, the property owner will be advised of it.

In the past, a clean-up situation would have a ten day grace period with a potential fine of up to $50 for non-compliance. Now, there's a 15-day period the owner has to start to take action but the fine can be up to $500.

One major issue is the problem of vagrants living in vacant homes. Officials say cleaning up the properties will discourage such action.

"We want to make the city look better," said Whalen-Hall.

The goal is to improve the look and the safety of the homes in the area. Housing Inspector Zach Clark said his job is to be sure, if anyone is or will be living in the house, that minimum housing standards are met.

He said he hopes the homeowners would take care of situations without forcing the city to take action. "The goal is for 100% of homeowner compliance."

Owners who fail to take action could see the city do it for them. The steps could be as simple as mowing the lawn or in one case last week, the city tore down a home that had become a nuisance. 

The cost of such action will revert back to the owner. "A lien or debt set-off will be placed against the property," said Clark. 

Officials say it will take time to get to all the complaints against homes but they will get to all of them. At that point, Clark said it is possible they will start looking at old abandoned factory buildings.

Those that represent a safety hazard or an eyesore, may have to be dealt with.

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