Neighbors want Huntsville city leaders to get tough on absentee property owners

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Neighbors say they want city leaders to get tougher on property owners who aren't cleaning up their act.

On Wednesday evening, home owners met with city leaders to share come of their concerns with blight on their streets.

From the outside, the homes look quiet and unassuming. But if you were to knock on the door, nobody's home.

"There are gutters falling down, trees growing out of gutters. Shrubs overtaking houses," Huntsville resident Pam Hudson said.

So long as the grass is being cut, most people don't complain. But neighbors in Huntsville say they've had it with shabby homes and piles of garbage.

"Enforce. That's the word I want to emphasize, enforce very strict rules and regulations," Huntsville resident Betty Gaylor said.

Huntsville code enforcement is tasked with finding the worst cases, vacant homes to be torn down.

"There are many blighted commercial buildings in south Huntsville. Especially along the parkway," Huntsville resident Ginger Longino said.

"No ordinance will make somebody a good neighbor, if they're not a good neighbor. No ordinance will make that happen," Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said.

City leaders say they're limited by what legal action they can take against so-called absentee property owners.

"I think we have a few bad actors in the market, and they have multiple properties. So, if you have one person who's just not playing by the rules, then we have a problem," Huntsville Area Association of Realtors Cindi Peters-Tanner said.

Huntsville now has 12 inspectors looking all over the city. They say over the past five years, rental properties make up a little under half of the complaints they get. But they say once they bring up the problem with property owners, they're getting over 90 percent compliance.

I don't think people understand that compliance through the city is working," Peters-Tanner said.

Huntsville code enforcement workers wrote nearly 10,000 violations around town in 2018. More than 5,000 were for uncut grass.
Huntsville city leaders say they're unlikely to write a new property ordinance. They say they'll meet with code enforcement leaders and neighborhood association groups to look at what more can be done to fix problems around town.

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