Landowners Face Lien If Property Not Cleaned Up

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Property owners beware: clean your blight or else.

The newest enforcement measure of last resort, called the Clean and Lien Ordinance, allows the county to place a lien on a blighted property if its owner doesn’t remove the visual nuisance.

“Some of these properties are a health and safety issue,” said Margie Chapman, community development building safety assistant senior, at a recent supervisors meeting.

In three years, eight cases have remained unresolved, compared to the roughly 700 to 750 successful outcomes.

“We are at a standstill,” Chapman said. The ordinance “needs a little more teeth.”

If code enforcers see a property in an unincorporated area of Gila County with “rubbish, trash, weeds, filth, debris or dilapidated buildings” which they think creates a “public nuisance,” they serve the property owner with a notice of violation.

The property owner then has 30 days to clean up before the violation is considered law breaking.

Property owners can appeal, and the county will allow an extra 30 days to clean up if the appeal is unsuccessful.

If the landowner still refuses to clean his property, the county can clean it for him — and send a bill due in 30 days. Offenders can also appeal the bill.

If the bill remains unpaid after one month, the county records the transgression and the bill becomes a lien. Property owners have one year to settle tabs under $500, two years to pay invoices under $1,000 and three years to pay off $5,000.

The county has the legal ability to foreclose and sell to recover its cleaning costs at any point after the county records the delinquent payment.

“I was hoping we never would have to have a hammer,” said Supervisor Tommie Martin.

Larry Miller, a Central Heights resident, urged the board to pass the ordinance. Miller said his neighbors buy items auctioned off from a local storage locker company, stuff them in a trailer, cover it with a tarp and then hold yard sales.

“It’s still junk in a trailer,” Miller said, adding that certain items protrude from the tarp, creating an eyesore. “Sooner or later it’s all garbage.”

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