On July 2, two homeowners were in Rossville City Court as directed by summons issued by Mark Harris, codes enforcement inspector for the City of Rossville.
“One of the homes had high grass and a junked out car,” Harris said. “They did manage to get the property cleaned up, however, once here they have to go ahead and pay the $75 court costs.”
The second case involved tornado debris at a Hogan Road address that had not been removed.
“Seeing as (the second owner) had everything cleaned up during the one hundred degree weather, we dismissed that case,” Harris said.
The two cases are a small fraction that resulted from more than 80 letters that were sent out by the Rossville Better Housing Commission in June. The majority of issues are addressed without the necessity of a court summons.
“There has been a lot of positive comments on the program by residents,” Joyce Wall said, Rossville council member. “Many people are reporting properties that are unsightly.”
The previous month had a few homeowners that had not completed the improvements and all received the maximum $141 fine.
During the three months of summons more than 10 citations have been imposed.
Prior to the commissions new efforts, one house had already been condemned and removed, resulting in a “labor lien” imposed against the property, according to Harris.
In the event that any of the cited properties fall back into disrepair the violation will automatically receive a court summons instead of the warning letters.
Wall campaigned on revitalizing the community and has worked as a liaison between the Better Housing Commission and the City of Rossville.
“A lot of our problem is that we have homes in Rossville that are now in foreclosure and we have people that will come in and buy those properties and then they just rent them out,” Wall said. “Many of (those owners) do not even live in our city and basically they are just interested in collecting the rent. They are not very diligent in seeing that the property is kept up.”
Property owners, not renters, are ultimately responsible for maintaining the property.
The 13-member Better Housing Commission has divided into five teams that patrol the sectors of the city monthly, creating a list of properties that will receive a letter specifying improvements needed.
“They have ten days to rectify the situation or make strides toward it,” Wall said,. “Those properties are reinspected by the same people, and if there is no change and nothing has been done, then those people are cited to court.”
For disabled and elderly residents that have neglected properties, Wall refers those properties to one commission member that works with volunteers that may provide a one-time clean up of the property.
“It isn’t our intent to make it hard on people, but Rossville needs a lot of improvements,” she said.
The commission and city officials are encouraged by the response but realize there are many further improvements to be made in Rossville.
“It didn’t get this way overnight and we aren’t going to clean it up overnight,” Wall said.
Harris delivered three more court summons to property owners during the first week of July.