An update on the house that was set afire down my street:
I called the appropriate person in the mayor's office and he has taken the action needed for the city to secure the house. I haven't checked about the tax status of the property, but I will. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to find there are back taxes due.
In my newspaper column this week I questioned if it was possible for the city to have a mechanism to try to prevent this kind of thing from happening. It's undoubtedly pie in the sky, but if abandoned, unsecured properties were reported, perhaps the fires that diminish the neighborhood could be prevented.
Mark M wrote," What are the reasons an owner would just abandon a house? More expensive to pay the taxes and upkeep than to just lose the house? I'm sure this is all 'common knowledge' to you guys who pay attention, the reasons someone would do that. What I'm wondering is, who can blame him? If it's a lose-lose situation for the guy, is he supposed to personally drive up here and make sure the house is secured? And how much would it cost to truly secure an empty house in Springfield?
"I'm not defending the guy. Just wondering what he coulda / shoulda done. I guess if he doesn't want the responsibility of being a good steward to the neighborhood, he should sell - but can he? Maybe he can't get back what he owes on the thing so he throws up his hands and says the hell with it?
"Or maybe he's a slumlord buying on the cheap to run the neighborhood down so he can sell it off and then get a big lucrative bulldozer contract with the city?
"It's baffling as hell. I'm inclined to say the culprits are the pricks who spray graffiti all over the house and catch it on fire, but maybe the Florida owner is at fault."
Okay, let me try to address this issue. In a city such as Springfield, out of town investors have bought a lot of rental property over the past 20 years. The up side is money can be made and the worse thing is that if you can't sell the property to someone else, you can simply walk away.
Walking away means avoiding having to fix up the place if there are code violations and not having to pay property tax. The city will eventually take your property in lieu of paid taxes. They can't sue you. They can't file criminal charges.
People who live here do this as well. The owner of Western Mass. Theaters walked away from the Calvin in Northampton, the Rivoli in Chicopee and the Bing in Springfield. And he's a local guy. He created problems for three communities.
I suppose the worst thing for the absentee owner would be the financial situation such an abandonment would cause with a lender.
© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs