NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (April 4, 2022) – The city has a list of 22 rundown properties it’s targeting this year for demolition or restoration. City officials says going after dilapidated and often dangerous homes has been a focus under Mayor Joel Day.
“We’ve got the international property maintenance code. We’ve got the fire code. We’ve got the building and housing code,” Law Director Marvin Fete said. “It’s what I like to call the doctrine of overwhelming force. We come after these people with every tool in our toolbox so if I have to prosecute this case in a court of law, they’re not going to win.”
Fire Capt. Jim Sholtz described some of the hazards inspectors discovered going through a vacant home that had caught fire.
“There were a bunch of homeless and vagrants in there,” he said. “In the basement, the water was waist-deep, and we had a hot water tank floating on its side.
“What the homeless were doing is called urban mining. They opened up all the walls, pulled all the copper wires out, all the copper pipes, and they recycled it.
“Upstairs, we believe the fire … was probably started by them cooking meth.
“On the first floor there were IV syringes all over the place. They’d been doing heroin. There were also meth pipes, stuff like that. There was human excrement all through the downstairs of it.”
He says some homes are ready to collapse on their own.
“One house had middle school kids that were in there playing,” Sholtz said. “It was so dangerous we were afraid to step into the door because the floor was giving out and the house was caving in on itself.”
Fete says landlords can’t force renters to live in deplorable conditions.
“It’s illegal for a landlord to penalize you if you want to report these conditions to either myself, the building inspector, the fire department,” Fete said. “Get in touch with us. We’ll work with you.”
He says New Philadelphia has resources to find safe housing for people if their home is too dangerous to live in.
Sholtz says last year, eight or nine of the homes the city targeted were torn down. About the same number were renovated.