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Shaming Owners of Rundown Properties

March 3, 2011 Environment, Neighborhoods, Politics/Policy 17 Comments

St. Louis could learn something from Webster.  No, not the suburb Webster Groves, Webster Mass:

WEBSTER, Mass. – The health board in a Massachusetts town has approved a plan to shame owners of rundown buildings into fixing and securing their properties.The plan approved Monday by the Webster board allows the town to place 4-by-8-foot signs on the sides of dilapidated buildings with the owner’s names, address and telephone number. (Mass. town approves plan to shame property owners)

St. Louis could just print lots of signs with the same info — no, not Paul McKee:

lraThe LRAreceives title to all tax delinquent properties not sold at the Sheriff’s sale. Also receives title to properties through donations. The SLDC Real Estate Department maintains, markets, and sells these properties and performs land assemblage for future development.” Maintains?

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. Christian says:

    I know of a shame case here in St. Louis from about 10 years ago. It was not governmental in origin; it was a grass roots shame initiative. The property in question was not only “run down”, but was infested with stupendously loud sociopaths and violent drug peddlers who burglarized neighboring buildings while occupants were at work, hooted elaborate threats and sexually charged soliloquies at all passersby, and mean-mugged anyone who looked at their repulsive countenances twice. They were installed on the front stoop all day, every day, like toad stools, slurping malt liquor while a car stereo thudded at the curb. Police were there constantly, though the building inspector assigned to the area seemed mysteriously helpless in addressing unbelievable overcrowding and numerous other code and safety violations. Locating the owner's domicile and place of business, an enterprising and utterly pissed off neighborhood resident took vivid photos of the property in question, wrote a compelling narrative to accompany them and mailed copies to co-op board members of the swanky building where this solid-citizen scumbag laid his distinguished head every night. Finding further that he had certain high-tone club memberships, this resident shared the same data with his friends there. Finally, he called at the landlord's place of business and left the same materials inserted in magazines in a waiting room, so the clientele could fully assess the scope of this renaissance man's enterprises. The building emptied and went up for sale less than two months later. Coincidence? Or does effective communication sometimes entail “thinking outside the box”?

    • Chris says:

      I've always wanted to write to slumlords on my street, but I'm a little worried of being accused of harassment. Has a lawyer ever thought of drafting a standard letter we could use that couldn't be construed as being illegal?

      • christian says:

        Lawyers for the City of St. Louis have standard correspondence they use to communicate with landlords once a property is declared a nuisance under the nuisance ordinance. As litigious as things are nowadays, I don't think that simply disseminating photos of a property with descriptions of documented outrages obtaining there daily could be construed as “illegal”. Ultimately, one can sue anyone for virtually anything, but the point is, a lot of these slumlords don't want the attention such litigation would bring to their nefarious, crumb bum dealings. They would rather appear as solid kings of respectability or pillar of the community types, singing at church and a proud family man, reverent, thrifty, and clean. Profiting from rental property filled with thugs terrorizing law-abiding citizens makes that difficult. Fortunately, the nuisance ordinance is a meaningful tool for residents and the city at large to bring lawful pressure on these characters. This ordinance did not always exist. .

        • Dempsterholland says:

          The nuisance law is really a way for the city to evade its responsibiklity.  Rather than arrest tenants for their bad actions, they try to make the landlords solve the proble,

  2. Mayor of Affton says:

    Didn't Kacie Starr-Triplett have an initiative she floated a year or so ago that was similar to this?

    • Yes, she tweeted a reply this morning this was in her original vacant building legislation.

      • Asdf says:

        was that before or after her workout tweet?

        • Guest says:

          Do the partisans of Brad Kessler have any other ideas other than sarcastic attacks on Alderwoman Triplett. I don't think she does a very good job, but at least she claims to have ideas other than to be a sarcastic and bitter candidate.

          I live in the 6th Ward, and I could care less what she tweets about.

    • Guest says:

      Her legislation is worthless; have you seen it implemented even once in the city yet?

  3. Rick says:

    LRA is not the problem. They are a symptom of a larger problem. The problem starts with the one or more private owners which abandoned the property before it was taken back for non-payment of real estate taxes.

    • Tpekren says:

      Thanks Rick, what is being failed to mention is that once property gets taken over because of tax deliquency that their is very little resources to maintain them. Simply put, where to prioritize tax dollars of a city with a population half of what the infrastructure, property and likewise can support. Or another way to put it, spending tax dollars to maintain the all the properties that the city owns for all intents and purpose is tax dollars that could be spent elsewhere or taken from elsewhere.

      I know everybody wants to save everything, maintain it and expect a market for it all. It simple isn't happening, so you got two choices coming at the city fast. First choice, figure out how to get McKee's proposal going or put together a downsizing plan.

      • JZ71 says:

        Unfortunately, shaming is not very effective. There are probably four kinds of “bad” owners, each with their own agendas and hot buttons. You have the small-time, mom-and-pop investor, who has/had good intentions, but runs out of money. You have the larger management companies, in charge of foreclosures. You have the LRA and you have developers doing assemblages. One size does not fit all . . . . .

        • Christian says:

          It seems just as reasonable to presume that they have bad intentions, at least insofar as they spend no money maintaining investment property while maxmizing profit at the expense of larger neighborhood stability. Intentions are ultimately immaterial anyway. What matters is the end result and the environment someone's mismanagement and indifference imposes on surrounding properties. While the worst slumlords may be of the truly brazen, unflappably parasitic variety, shame initiatives are often effective, if tailored to fit each offender's “agendas and hot buttons”, whatever they might be.

          • JZ71 says:

            Few investors buy anything with the intention of losing money, especially a LOT of money. By the time real estate reaches the decrepit stage, most owners have given up having any hope of making a profit and just want to get out. Shame is usually the least of their worries, unless you decide to shame them where they live or work, not where the property is located . . .

          • christian says:

            Some people should simply not be in the real estate business. Too many boneheads these days attend bogus “get rich in real estate” seminars and imagine themselves in a room full of cash with no overhead or hassles, while other boneheads shower them with rent checks all day. I have little sympathy with such a greedy dumb ass, just as I would not for someone who falls for foolish internet scams or buys shares in the Arch. What matters to me is how their fecklessness and incompetence adversely affect the community. I do think the shame option should be reserved for the most flagrant and recalcitrant cases. For every hard core slumlord, out there, there are four others who would and will run their properties properly when offered assistance and advice.

  4. RyleyinSTL says:

    This idea sounds brilliant to me. The biggest reason I don't bother to regularly complain about derelict/run down/unattractive properties now is that it's slow to get back to the owner (if it actually does every time) and I need to write down the address and fill out forms or bug the CAB or alderman….so it doesn't always get done. With this idea I could do it from the car or while out for a run or walk. One easy step to quickly connect me directly to the person/people who are trying to destroy this wonderful city (yes, even if it's the city itself)….I have a few choice things to say to them and making it easier to do would hopefully increase the chances that more people would get involved and complain.

    Even better would be if we could also put a big sign on the home/business address of the registered owner of the disgusting properties in question, announcing to the whole city that they don't care about the community as much as you do.

    I'm not a rich man and I keep my home and property in excellent condition so nothing is preventing any land owner in the city from doing the same.

  5. Dempsterholland says:

    The nuisance law is really a way for the city to evade its responsibiklity.  Rather than arrest tenants for their bad actions, they try to make the landlords solve the proble,


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