‘It’s putting everybody here at risk’: Residents and City of Wichita urging property owners to clean up blight homes

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The City of Wichita is asking some property owners to clean up or pay up. A total of 13 property owners have until July 12 to get their homes and land in order or could be taken to court and face a fine. It’s an effort to cut down on blight and nuisance properties in the area.

Blight is the term for land that is unsightly, unsafe, and in dilapidated conditions.

“We always do our best to combat blight and focus on areas in need given the resources available to us,” said Chris Labrum, Director with the city’s Metropolitan Area Building and Construction Department.

Thomas Dyke lives near three of the properties on the list. He has some safety concerns about the vacant run-down homes on South Seneca.

“For it to accidentally catch fire, that would then jeopardize the safety of everyone in this neighborhood too,” said Dyke.

He says over the years they’ve gotten worse.

“People would come over there knock the windows out their pets would get in there, kids would go in there,” said Dyke.

That’s why he’s glad to see the posted legal notices on the homes urging the owners to comply. Vacant properties can be a challenge for the city.

“In many cases we are not able to locate the owner,” said Labrum. “In some cases, the owner may be deceased, and there isn’t a clear transfer of title.”

It’s a year round problem, but the city said they see more complaints during the summer months.

“We of course see a large increase due to tall grass and weeds during the summer months,” said Labrum. “We also receive more complaints during warm weather, since more people are out to notice violations.  ”

The consequences for property owners who ignore the notices varies. It could result in the issuing of a Uniform Criminal Complaint.

“In this case, they must report for a court date at which a judge will take the circumstances into account and order compliance,” said Labrum. “This can include extensions on the deadline, a compliance agreement, or even fines.  In extreme cases, we will take emergency measures to correct a dangerous condition.  These could include an administrative search warrant to perform an abatement, or an emergency demolition of a badly damaged and unsafe house. ”

Labrum said about 70 percent of owners make the ordered improvements by the deadline.

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