I know I’ve mentioned before that we live in an affluent neighborhood in Atlanta called Buckhead. The houses in much of the neighborhood look like this one. However, we like to say that we live on the wrong side of the tracks in Buckhead. Or, “Buckhead adjacent,” since it reminds Ad Man and me of living in Los Angeles where any structure within 10 miles of Beverly Hills is referred to as “Beverly Hills adjacent.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love our neighborhood and the homes are far from cheap. Well, I should clarify that they are not “cheap” unless you moved here from San Francisco like we did. (We spent the first few days of our house search running around all giddy yelling, “Holy crap! They’re giving houses away here!”) The difference is that the McMansions being built amidst the 1950s ranches in our neighborhood are far smaller than the legit mansions just minutes away.
When we were in the process of buying our home, there was a house next door that appeared rundown so we asked neighbors about it. We were told that the house belonged to an elderly couple who were poor health and didn’t have family living nearby. People in the neighborhood pitched in and took turns mowing the couple’s lawn. We thought, “Now, that’s the kind of neighborhood we want to live in!” But, by the time we moved in, the house next door was empty. Well, not empty, exactly. It was still full of furniture and personal belongings and curtains were hanging in the windows, but the elderly couple had moved in with their daughter a few hours away.
And, that is exactly how it has remained for the past seven years. We’ve met the couple’s daughter and her husband a couple times, and they’ve made a show of removing a stack of boxes every other year or so, but as far as actually doing something with the house, they’ve always appealed to our sympathy. They live far away, they both work and have kids, they’re dealing with her father who has dementia (the mother has since passed away), etc. They’ve alternately claimed that they were going to renovate the house and move in and, more recently, tear it down and rebuild. My requests for a timeframe always go unanswered.
We and other neighbors have been more than patient. Others would have firebombed the damn place years ago. Instead, we’ve watched the house, which is on a large piece of property in a great school district, deteriorate to the point where it will no longer be salvageable, even if taken down to the studs. Imagine this…the home (which we’ve come to refer to as the Boo Radley House) has been un-air-conditioned and unheated for seven years. In Atlanta! Things are gross in the summer in Atlanta even with air-conditioning. We’ve complained to the city and it was condemned at one point a few years ago, but the homeowners just hired a yard service and had workers do some cosmetic fixes. That was apparently sufficient for the City of Atlanta.
Other than keeping the grass mowed, the house is again in a deplorable condition. Workers who were in the house years ago reported that it was infested with rats and covered in mold. And, to think, it’s right next door. Delightful, huh? It’s always a fun topic of conversation when we have guests over for the first time. Anyway, the reason I tell you all of this is because I HAVE HAD IT! I’ve decided to take on the owners of the house and the city like it’s my full-time job and I want to keep you updated on my progress (or lack thereof).
So far, I’ve done a bunch of research about the city codes and the Office of Code Enforcement records, which is the most I’ve used my law degree in the last eight years. I’ve also gathered documentation between me and other neighbors and the city, our city councilman, the code enforcement office, the homeowners and others. I’ve written a letter with the advice of a friend-of-a-friend who held a high-level position in the city and knows how best to get the attention of the people who might actually do something to help us. I’ve taken photos of the falling-down house and I’ll be walking around the neighborhood getting as many people to sign the letter with me as possible.
If all of the above efforts don’t work, I have a few other tricks up my sleeve. Stay tuned for updates. If any of my lovely readers has advice or a contact in the City of Atlanta Office of Code Enforcement, please let me know!