Housing Court Judge tours neglected properties

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The City of Buffalo is cracking down on landlords who are neglecting their property, by stepping up enforcement of the city’s housing code.

Housing Court Judge Patrick Carney handles thousands of these cases, and on Thursday, Carney took off his robe and stepped away from the bench to take a look for himself.

The judge’s tour de force took him to Linwood Avenue, where neighbors have been complaining about an old rundown house behind the old Millard Fillmore Hospital that they say has been neglected for years.

Judge Carney found the owner has been a Housing Court “no-show” and has even issued a warrant for the owner’s arrest.

“The city crews have maintained it, some of the neighbors have maintained it. But there is nothing you can do with the deterioration of this, what otherwise is a beautiful home, when you have an owner that can’t be found,” Judge Carney said.

Neighbors believe the owner has skipped town to Canada, so neighborhood activists like Jeff Carballada make sure the grass is cut, and litter in the front yard is picked up.

Carballada said they are really protecting their own property.

“It is the worst of all situations because you have an absentee owner, and you have somebody who just does not want to participate in a process to fix up the property.”

Farther along Linwood Avenue is a big old house, with a moat in the front, whose best days seem to be behind it. The property has been cited into Housing Court, mainly for superficial violations such as high weeds and overgrown vegetation, but Judge Carney says it stands out like a sore thumb among neighboring properties that are being kept up.

“It was vacant, it was just sitting here. It is a very beautiful, very expensive piece of property, and they did not want to see it deteriorate.”

The property has been used as office space, and at one time, was owned by someone in California.

Another part of the problem, says Carney, is out-of-state, and in some cases foreign buyers, who only go by what they see on the internet.

Judge Carney recalled hearing from a woman in England, who bought a property on Craigslist for $30,000 that was on the city’s demolition list.

“It was worthless, it was completely gutted, everything was removed. There was a fire in the back of the house, but the front of the house, on Craigslist, looked terrific.”

But it turns out the house with the moat has new owners, who just closed on the sale this week, and their realtor says, they are drawing up plans for massive improvements to the property, which could be released some time in August.

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