Success With Amnesty Program for Property Code Violators

Years ago, the Tallahassee City Commission sent out a message to some negligent property owners: clean it up, or lose it.

Brenda Tanner of Neighborhood and Community Services says, "We had tried to use the existing code enforcement process by which we notified the violators, and if they didn't correct them, we took them to the code board."

But after some properties weren't improved, and owners didn't seem to care about thousands of dollars in liens, Brenda says, "That left dilapidated buildings, rundown properties in neighborhoods, affecting the value of adjacent properties."

Therefore, the commission approved the Amnesty Program.

Jim English, a City of Tallahassee attorney, says, "It's a get out of jail free program, or free pass program, where for a limited period of time it lets folks who have fines in this case come in, fess up and get their property cleaned up and pay reduced fines."

Wilma Clark, a city property owner, says, "It affected my income and my property values. It has helped the entire neighborhoods."

The city says the program is a success, with almost 70 percent of properties now in compliance.

For the others that are not, Jim English says, "It's time to foreclose on those properties. If the current owner doesn't want to clean it up, the next owner will."

The city attorney says there are properties now going through the foreclosure process. In at least one case, the owners aren't even in the country. As for the foreclosed properties, the city may hang on to some, repair them and then possibly use them for housing, but most will be auctioned off.