New amendment on condemned houses

By Frank Lewis -

The city of Portsmouth is running into a problem with their condemned houses. It seems people want to live in them and that has brought about a proposed change in a Codified Ordinance that City Manager Derek K. Allen will bring up Monday night.

“We’re actually working with John Haas, the City Solicitor and Derek Allen, the City Manager, and all three of us have written an amendment to the current City Ordinance that’s going to be presented Monday at City Council,” Andy Gedeon of the Portsmouth City Health Department said. “Mr. Allen is going to do it in his City Manager’s meeting.”

The amendment would be to 1311.05, Occupying A Condemned Structure.

“They’re going to require that they (occupants) have permission from whoever condemns the house to be in the residence,” Gedeon said. “and that’s between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Other than that they’re not allowed to be in there.”

Gedeon said the law says they are allowed to be in the house to do whatever work is necessary to bring the house up to code or to retrieve their personal belongings.

Allen said, for the last several weeks a coordinated effort by the Portsmouth City Health Department, Portsmouth Municipal Court Probation Department, the Portsmouth Police Department and the City Manager’s Office has been going out and finding individuals in condemned houses. The Portsmouth City Health Department has condemned those houses and declared that they are unfit for human habitation.

Allen said, when the team returns to those nuisance houses individuals wanted through warrants for drug dealing, drug activity and other individuals back living in the houses were found. He said, when told the house is condemned the occupants always claim that they were just working on the houses. They also claim they have permission to be in the house to work on the deplorable conditions.

“The truth however, is quite different,” Allen said. “In one house in particular the occupants were discovered sitting and eating food at 8 p.m. Another time at the same house individuals were found with drugs on them in the house.”

Allen said in one house 10 people were arrested and Child Protective Services came and took the child out of the house.

“In the second house the house had been condemned due to a fire, yet they were living in the house,” Allen said. “The occupant of the second house claimed that they were working on cleaning the house.”

He said, in both instances there was no evidence the houses were being worked on, some, he said, looked worse than before.

“Now, since there has been such an issue, they are required to have permission from me,” Gedeon said.

Gedeon referenced at house on Broadway Street where the owners called him on Tuesday and asked permission to be in the house and when they did they were required to give him a timeline. They reportedly told him they would be in the house from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

“When that happens, I notify the police dispatch and let them know that I was contacted and I gave them permission to be in there from 12-4,” Gedeon said.

The amendment says any structure condemned and placarded is to be vacated as ordered by the condemnation official. Any person who enters a placarded premises, any owner or other person responsible for the premises who allows entrance into a placarded premises without a permit issued by the condemning official will be liable for the penalties provided in Section 1311.99

By Frank Lewis

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-370-0711

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-370-0711