Property owners could face fines for dilapidated structures - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Property owners could face fines for dilapidated structures

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SHERMAN -- Lynda Ater says the abandoned home she's been living next to for the past two years is not only an eye-sore, she says it's also become dangerous for her and her family.

"Bugs, rats, snakes, high grass, it's not livable," Ater said. "I don't know how to describe it really."

Unfortunately, sights similar to the home next door to the Aters are common in Sherman.

It's why the city has decided to revamp its Substandard Structure Ordinance, "And give it a little more bite," according to Sherman city attorney Brandon Shelby.

Shelby helped draft the new ordinance, at the city council's request. The city has had a Substandard Structure Ordinance, but the new version includes an enforcement provision.

"We can enforce violators of the ordinance both criminally and civilly," Shelby said.

The ordinance targets structures "in a state of dilapidation, deterioration, or decay, faulty construction, open, vacant or abandoned, damaged by fire to the extent as to not provide shelter, in danger of collapse or failure or dangerous to anyone on or near the premises."

It would give the city the authority to order the building be repaired, demolished or removed.

If improvements aren't made within a certain time frame, property owners could be criminally charged with a Class "C" Misdemeanor and fined $250 per day per violation. The city could also file a civil lawsuit against the violator in district court. According to the ordinance, civil action may result in a penalty of up to $1,000 per day.

"So you can see if a property owner is really lax in cleaning up their property, that can really add up," Shelby said.

Under the ordinance, if the property owner can't afford to repair or demolish the home, it can grant to city permission to do it. As a result, the city would have a lien against the property.

Shelby says the goal is to improve the city's image.

"The goal is to spur property owners to take care of it, or maybe, their neighbors to exert some sort of social pressure to clean it up and just to beautify the town," Shelby said.

A draft of the proposal was presented before Sherman's city council during its May 20th meeting.

The ordinance is expected to be voted on within the next two months.