Negligent property owner sued for demolition costs

Not all abandoned properties are the result of the housing crisis or banking practices, attorney general says
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Dec 4, 2012

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Dayton City Manager Tim Riordan announced that they have filed a lawsuit against a property owner whose property was damaged by fire in March of 2010 and subsequently demolished by the city of Dayton.

The lawsuit seeks to reimburse the city for costs associated with the property on 1509-1511 Viola Avenue.

"The Ohio Attorney General's Office has designated significant resources from the National Mortgage Settlement to combat the blight of abandoned houses across Ohio," Attorney General DeWine said. "However, not all abandoned properties are the result of the housing crisis or banking practices. There are occasionally egregious cases where negligent property owners have contributed to this problem and should be held liable for the demolition costs, instead of their neighbors and fellow taxpayers.  We want to help cities recoup these costs and will help them go after these negligent owners in any way we can."

"The fight against abandoned and blighted houses is one of the biggest concerns for our citizens and one of our highest priorities as a local government," Riordan said. "Empty homes damage the vitality of an entire neighborhood and drain precious tax dollars through demolition costs. We think this aggressive new legal action will prompt other negligent property owners to avoid the same fate by fixing or removing these eyesores before we come after them.  Until now there was little cities could do to coerce derelict property owners into doing the right thing. This adds a new dimension to make that happen, or you'll pay the price in the end."

A lawsuit was filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court against Wright Homebuyers, LLC who owned the property at 1509-1511 Viola Avenue in Dayton. After a fire in March of 2010, and receiving notices that the property needed to be demolished, the owner took no further action, and the responsibility for the demolition ultimately fell on the City of Dayton. The lawsuit seeks to collect the costs incurred by the City of Dayton in demolishing the property, totaling more than $16,000.

DeWine has worked with Dayton and Montgomery County officials since he created the Demolition Grant Program in February. The Demolition Grant Program helps stabilize and improve communities by removing blighted and abandoned homes with funds from the national mortgage settlement reached earlier this year. While an exact total of abandoned homes is not available, conservative estimates place the number of vacant and abandoned properties in Ohio in need of immediate demolition at 100,000.

Also last week, DeWine, Newark Mayor Jeff Hall, and Newark Law Director Douglas Sassen announced that lawsuits have been filed against two property owners whose homes fell into disrepair and were subsequently demolished by the City of Newark.

That lawsuit was filed in Licking County Common Pleas Court against Ronald Watson, who owned two properties at 282-284 Elmwood and 308-310 Elmwood. A separate lawsuit was filed in Newark Municipal Court against Stephen and Patricia Trout, who owned property at 259 Elmwood. Despite being cited for code violations for several years, the owners took no action to address the violations or demolish the properties.  After receiving notice that the properties needed to be demolished, the owners took no further action, and the responsibility for the demolitions ultimately fell on the City of Newark.

The lawsuits seek to collect the debt incurred by the City of Newark in demolishing the three properties, which totals more than $40,000 in demolition and asbestos abatement costs.

Copies of the lawsuits can be found by clicking on the links below.