Fix it or remove it


photos courtesy of City of South St. Paul The Feb. 4 South St. Paul City Council meeting agenda packet had several photos showing the disrepair of the house at 110 Third St. S. Each photo listed what needed to be fixed at the home, which has no running water or electricity, for it to be deemed habitable again. The council took action requiring the home’s owner to fix the numerous issues.

A hole in the roof led to the ceiling collapsing in a stairwell. Towels were placed on the steps to deal with water leaking in.

South St. Paul council addresses hazardous home 

 

On Feb. 4, the South St. Paul City Council took action on a property deemed hazardous. The council voted unanimously to initiate action for abating the hazardous property at 110 Third St. S.

Kori Land, city attorney, said when the city comes across a vacant or hazardous structure it is taken “very seriously.” City staffers attempt to work with the property owner on code compliance and other issues.

“When they’ve exhausted all options in trying to gain voluntary code compliance, then we look at some pretty severe remedies,” Land said, which means bringing the issues to the council’s attention.

Aaron Price, who works with Land at her law firm, said a hazardous building is defined by Minnesota statute as “any building or property, which because of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, physical damage, unsanitary condition or abandonment, constitutes a fire hazard or a hazard to public safety or health.”

Price added the city has the authority to order the owner of any hazardous building or property within the city to remove or correct the hazardous condition. The city can also order to remove the building.

 

Uninhabitable

The property in question was purchased by its current owner in November 2013. This last summer, the city received a complaint about its disrepair and the overall condition of the property.

Between July and November of 2018, the city tried to work with the property owner. Price said administrative citations were issued and re-inspection fees were imposed. The fees and citations were not appealed and have been assessed as special assessments against the property.   

On Dec. 3, 2018, an administrative search warrant was issued, which allowed the city access into the home. The search revealed several deficiencies at it.

“Specifically, there is no water, gas or electricity currently serving the residence,” Price said, adding the ceiling going up the stairs to the second floor had collapsed and the roof is leaking into the stairway. 

Other hazardous conditions discovered included issues with the garage structure and the home’s fence.

“Based on those observations and in the report written in December 2018, the building official concluded that the building was uninhabitable in its current condition,” Price said.

Price said the council could order the owner to repair and remove the violations to the building officer’s satisfaction, repair or remove the garage, and repair or remove the home’s fence by March 8.

If there is no compliance, the city will be authorized to repair or remove the violations, and the cost of the work will be collected as a special assessment. 

 

Tear it down

Council member Tom Seaberg asked where the property owner was.

Price said attempts to serve the owner with documents had failed because she couldn’t be located, though per a city staffer, the owner is living at a hotel in Inver Grove Heights.

Seaberg said if the owner needs assistance in finding housing, staff should work with resources through Dakota County to make sure that happens. He said it always confuses him when property owners can’t be tracked down.

Seaberg added he thought there is no way the house will be repaired by March. He said the best thing for the community and the safety and welfare of the neighbors is to tear the house down.

There is no mortgage on the property, so Land said there are no other lien holders who need to be served. 

Council member Joe Forester said when he ran for council he ran on code enforcement and the need for more of it. 

“I know there’s more [hazardous properties] out there also. It’s just we have to find them and get them,” Forester said, adding that while he feels sorry for the owners of such properties, the city need to do what’s best for the community. 

–Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

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