In 2014, a western neighborhood in the city of Largo was attempting to navigate their way through solving a very specific problem: a dilapidated, un-cared for home was causing a blight on the visage of the otherwise lovely area. Largo building official William Ondulich explains how this situation came to be, and how he was able to help solve it.
Three years earlier, in 2011, the owner of the home which resided on Hillside Avenue, sadly passed away. The property was then remanded to his estate, but unfortunately, no one ever claimed ownership of the building. With no one to live inside it, the home quickly fell into disrepair.
In an article run by the Tampa Bay Times, the property was described thusly: “The dilapidated house looks like a strong wind could knock it over. It has broken windows, boarded-up doors and a jungle-like lawn with a shopping cart abandoned in a watery pit. It’s on an otherwise well-kept street, where neighbors describe it as an endless source of rats, roaches, mosquitoes, and feral cats.” With this sort of public image, William Ondulich notes, it’s no wonder the local community was up in arms about attempting to make the city solve this problem.
In fact, William Ondulich informs us, before the city moved to take action, local residents had taken it upon themselves to try to keep the lot and surrounding areas clean, getting rid of debris and mowing the lawn. Left unchecked, the abandoned home was negatively affecting their own property values-something that was totally unacceptable in their eyes.
Finally, William Ondulich tells us, the residents of Largo had had enough. In just two hours, they had obtained anywhere from 50 to 55 signatures, petitioning for the foreclosure of the house. Because of their initiative, the city of Largo was made to foreclose on the house, which cost around $12,000 in legal fees and took about a year to finalize.
$12,000 may seem like a lot of money, but it’s nothing, says William Ondulich, compared to the $160,000 in code enforcement fine the abandoned property stacked up over the course of seven years. This is in addition to the $1,650 that the city initially spent to clean up the property shortly after the original owner’s passing in 2011, according to William Ondulich. At the end of the day, there was simply no other option.
“Basically I’ve exhausted all my legal remedies with the property, and it continues to this day to be a blight on the neighborhood”, William Ondulich was quoted as saying, in reference to the decision being made to demolish the house and have affordable housing placed on the lot.