Property owners in Durant upset with city condemning homes - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Property owners in Durant upset with city condemning homes

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DURANT, OK -- Several property owners in Durant are upset with city officials. They say homes are being torn down at a rapid rate without much notice.

The owners KTEN spoke with say the city has increased the number of homes it has condemned in the past months and its even leaving some of their tenants with nowhere to go.

"They're safe," says Mary Hall, a property owner in Durant. "They're safe houses."

Hall's family has owned property in Durant for more than a hundred years, but that legacy is in jeopardy. Two of her homes on southeast 7th street have been condemned by the city.

"I didn't want to lose them," she said, "they're my only income. I'm living on social security and that's not much."

After posting a condemned sticker on the door of her home.. The city told her she had a few weeks to fix repairs or they would tear it down. As a retired school teacher, she was forced to lean on friends for help with the renovations.

George Benefile's home was also condemned by the city.

"They came, put red tags on the building," he said, "and said you got twenty four hours to get out."

He  says he was happy to help hall out in exchange for a place to stay. Residents on the south side of town have seen similar cases.

"An older man lives there," said Randi Miller, a resident in Durant, "and the inspectors came out and said they were condemning the house and just kicked him out right out of his house."

Code Enforcement Officer Darla Smith says property owners are given a letter months in advance before the dreaded condemned sticker.

"Our job is to make sure that your neighborhood is free of grass and weeds and trash and debris," said Smith, "depilated structures that could bring in varmints, people using drugs and things like that. Kids playing in houses that could catch them on fire."

Smith is part a team consisting of Durant Fire, Durant Police and City Hall charged with regulating the safety of houses.

"We're not in the business of taking people's houses down," she said. "We would rather see them fix them, bring them back up to code."