Abandoned, vacant homes challenge various parts of Lubbock

KCBD Evening Newscast 6 p.m. vacant homes in court 10/07/2019

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - From South Lubbock to Central Lubbock to the northern parts of the Hub City, various vacant or abandoned homes and structures have recently gone before the Lubbock Municipal Court as the City of Lubbock seeks remedies to the public nuisances.

Code Enforcement Director Stuart Walker says the issue of abandoned or vacant homes can be challenging and is a big enough issue that the department has a committed group of inspectors to work on the cases.

“We look at these structures that are abandoned as a health and safety issue for our neighborhoods,” Walker said. “Open and accessible structures invite vagrants. Children could get in there and get hurt, things like that. They are not being taken care of and provide habitat for vermin and vectors for disease. So, we work with property owners to get those violations taken care of as quick as possible. But, there are those properties where there simply isn’t a property owner there to be responsible.”

Walker tells KCBD those cases go to the structural standards court each month, as many as four to eight cases each time.

“We are taking a number of cases through that court, get orders on those properties, work with property owners to get those properties back up into meeting minimum housing standards or going through and enforcing the orders and abating those violations and demolishing those structures so that our neighborhoods are safe,” Walker said.

Some cases may cause frustration for nearby residents of the structure, like a home on 86th Street in Lubbock’s Lakeridge neighborhood. It has an owner but that person doesn’t regularly occupy it. Neighbors, who wanted to remain anonymous in fear of retaliation, told KCBD the home often attracts insects, animals and produces smells.

According to City of Lubbock records, the home has garnered at least 20 complaints since 2018 about weeds and rubbish, the property’s maintenance or other code violations. Those records show the property owner complied, the complaint was dismissed or it was referred.

Walker said his department does get complaints on houses like that but its often challenging to take action if ordinances are complied with.

“As long as a property owner is keeping that house secured, no broken out windows, no kicked in doors, no method of easily accessible entry into the dwelling, we don’t have any probable cause to do any kind of inspection on the house,” Walker said.

While vacant property may be an eye sore, Walker said it doesn’t violate ordinances or law by not looking pleasant.

“We look at it strictly from a health and safety standpoint,” Walker said. “We try to apply those ordinances and those laws as best we can to address those issues.”

In the instance that the City has to abate a property, the cost of the demo, mowing, hauling of material is absorbed by the City. However, the property owner is billed or a lien is placed on the property for that cost. Walker said the City may lose that money if the property goes to a tax sale.

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