Who picks up the trash at an abandoned house?




Posted on March 31, 2011 at 5:04 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 5 at 1:51 PM

RENTON, Wash. -- It's hard to believe, but a battered and beaten mailbox is the nicest part of one particular house to which it belongs.

"It depresses me and I always look out there see what garbage is out there today," neighbor Brett Hawton said.

From the shopping cart to the RV on blocks, the home looks like Sanford and Son's junk yard, minus Sanford and his son.

"I would see homeless people or druggies hanging out here," Brett told me. "One time, I saw four of them pushing a brand new Cadillac down the street at four in the morning and I knew that wasn't normal activity."

Brett Hawton lives right down the street from the foreclosed embarrassment. He wants the owners held responsible.

So, who holds the title to this home? Fannie Mae. And it says nothing can be done to clean up the property.

"It's their asset and it's just lowering the property value for them for resale and all the neighbors," he said.

So what happens if your dirty neighbor happens to be a bank located thousands of miles away?

"With a big company, I can't have that face-to-face interaction," Neil Watts from the City of Renton tells me, "when it's a big bank that's somewhere else."

Watts is the Director of Developmental Services, and adds he won't go after the bank because Fannie Mae is tied up in court trying to get rid of squatters who may be living on the property.
"We feel the issues of eviction and getting an abatement order to take care of the vehicle are providing legal constraints," Watts said.

Now it's March, and according to King County Health investigator Bill Lasby, something has moved onto the scene: Rats.

Let's do some math: The home has had garbage issues since September. That's about 200 days. Rats can give birth in around 22 days. The average litter for rats is 11. So every three weeks nothing happens, Brett gets a dozen new neighbors.

But two weeks ago, King County issued a health violation to Fannie Mae

"The bank should be the people who arrange for stuff to be picked up and cleaned up," Lasby said.

Even if there are squatters, he says that's an issue for the bank. But they need to have it cleaned up. It can take five weeks before fines of just $25 a day are levied.

"Everyone who is in that process thinks it's too short. Everyone around that process thinks it's too long, and it's a balancing act," Lasby said.

And it's an act that continues to tear at the fabric of this neighborhood.

Fannie Mae tells me it will clean up the property as soon as it's legally able. That could take months. In the meantime, since we started asking questions, someone has taken the RV away. The trash has to go next.

We're staying on this one. We will keep you updated.