In Your Corner: Naked House

By Ryan Elijah

May 20, 2011 Updated May 20, 2011 at 8:25 AM EDT

The Northwest Lima Woods Neighborhood Association is just off Lima Road. They represent a quiet community with over 200 homes, but for the last few years the focus has been mainly on one.

"the property is a mess, the grass is rarely cut, he's just let his property go downhill", said Denny Zimmerman, president of the association.

In 2007, neighbors on Wayside Drive were surprised when the owner of the house removed all of the home's siding.

"we figured he would replace it, but he never has"

The home has was reported to Fort Wayne's neighborhood code and the owner never responded to a 60-day work plan. At the time code enforcement could issue civil penalties, but with the house in foreclosure their hands were tied.

"we didn't have any enforcement power at that point because the courts would not listen to it because it was in foreclosure. The banks have brought it to a sheriff's sale two times and they've pulled it back two times". said Cindy Joyner, Fort Wayne's Director of Neighborhood Code Enforcement.

New federal legislation encouraging banks to work with customers could be behind some of the delays. Two weeks ago, code enforcement met for a fourth time and added another fine, bringing the total on the home to nearly $5,000, an amount that will appear on a tax bill.

Last week, the home's power was turned off, allowing the city to issue a condemnation order, prohibiting the owner from living there.
Also this week, it appears the banks are gearing up for a third sheriff's sale.

"it looks like they're moving toward another sheriff sale, they have applied to the court". said Joyner

We contacted the owner of the home. He said he took the siding off the home in a plan to remodel the home, but he's been out of work for nearly 18 months, delaying the project. He's working to find the money to get his power turned back on, which would allow him to occupy the home.

To be clear the goal of neighborhood code is compliance and not fines, or demolition in the worst cases. A 2009 local code ordinance has helped the city deal with this issue, but it would take new legislation at the state level to increase their options, and costs could be a problem. As for the neighborhood association, they're looking to strengthen their covenants going forward. Neighborhood associations would still face legal costs, even with strict covenants, if a homeowner chose not to abide by their standards.
Neighbors are concerned about their property values, one nearby home failed to sell in an auction, recently.

The story illustrates the fine line that code enforcement must walk when it comes to personal property rights.

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