Out with the old: How the properties go from condemned to demolition
Within the city of Ardmore, there are typically around 250 condemned structures at any given time. While some of these are activly being repaired, others remain empty and abandoned waiting for either the owner or the city to tear the property down. Community Development Director Jessica Scott described how the process works.
“We condemn a property if it has some kind of structural hazard or danger,” Scott said. “Once it has been condemned we send the owner a letter. Even though it’s condemned it’s still the property owners responsibility to keep it secure so vagrants and children cannot enter. We also require the owner to keep the property cleaned.”
The condemned property will eventually be placed onto the list for a demolition hearing, though Scott said the length of time between condemnation and the demolition hearing can vary widely.
“Safety is always our biggest concern, so the more hazardous the property, the more quickly it will be in a hearing,” she said. “So if there is a fire, and the building is going to fall down, that’s going to move to the top of the list. If it’s a building that has frequent break ins and there is a lot of drug activity on the property, that’s going to move closer to the top of the list. If it’s a building that’s always secure and never has any problems, it can sit for several years because there is just not enough money in our budget to take every condemned house down.”
Scotty said once a property does make it into the demolition hearing, the owners typically do not attend.
“I’d say 80% of the time they don’t show up,” she said. “For a lot of these properties the owner is either deceased and they might not have an heir or if there is an heir, they don’t care.”
She said the city will work with the property owners who do attend the hearings.
“If you want to fix it up, we’ll work with you to get a permit to try to fix it,” she said. “If you want to tear it down, then we’ll give you the time to tear it down. If you want us to tear it down, we will.”
The properties that are demolished by the city go out for bid, and the lowest bidder is awarded the contract. The cost of the demolition depends on the structure. Concrete foundations, two story homes, and properties full of trash will cost more.
“Once it’s torn down, we send the owner a bill for the demolition cost, and we continue sending a bill every month for six months,” she said. “The owner can pay that either all at once or in installments over the six month period. After six months we put a lien on the property.”
Once a lien is on the property, the county is in charge of collecting property taxes and seeing that the lien is paid. If the property taxes and the lien are not paid, the county will then seize the property for auction.
Scott said that in most cases the city does not receive any money from the county from this sale because the funds generated by the sale of the property are first used to cover back taxes and there is no money left over once the taxes are paid.