What’s worse than a condemned house? Try living next to one

By Charles Sercombe

Tom Witkowski has every right to say this, but he hasn’t.

The house next door to his on the 2000 block of Edwin St. is a pile of sh*t.

Or, if you prefer a more polite term, feces.

We mean that in the literal sense because the person who occupied the house had the habit of defecating on his couch, floor and anywhere, apparently, but the toilet.

How do we know this?

When the cops recently came to arrest the guy for income tax evasion, and possible child abuse, he was asked why there was so much excrement on the floor and everywhere.


The reason is not clear, but detectives told us that the man who had been living there is obese and has a hard time getting around. According to Witkowski, he noticed that numerous toilets were thrown out over the last few years since the man lived there.

Let’s stress the part about “was living there’ because the city finally condemned the house and forbade anyone from living there.

The cops initially arrested the guy for child abuse for allowing his kids to live in the filth-infested house, but that charge was dropped because the kids were not actually living there, but nevertheless, were there.

The story gets worse. Two weeks after the man was arrested and the house was condemned, on a Sunday morning at 3 a.m., the house mysteriously went up in flames.

Witkowski’s house was partially damaged from heat exposure.

But that’s not the key thing he’s mad about. He confronted the City Council at its most recent meeting, demanding to know when the house will be demolished.

“They write up tickets for what?” he said about city code inspectors who stopped by over the last several months. “Nothing is ever done. … You want to live next door to that?”

So, why is a nightmare house like this be allowed to fester and fester?

City Manager Bill Cooper said it’s a matter of the law protecting the rights of homeowners.

But what about the rights of homeowners next to a house in this condition?

You just have to keep on complaining, and eventually, the tickets add up to hefty fines and then possibly even arrest.

As for when the city will get around to tearing down the house next door to Witkowski, we asked City Manager Cooper what the plan is. He says he is working to take action with the insurance company that has a policy for the house.

“We’re trying to get this house torn down,” Cooper said.

But there’s an added problem. Witkowski said there are roaches and mice in the house.

Cooper said if that’s the case, he will first have to exterminate the house before knocking it down.

Perhaps more frustrating is that this house is not an isolated case. The city has dozens and dozens of houses in equally decrepit condition.

Cooper said violation after violation can be issued, and in some cases property owners just pay the fines, but ultimately, it takes time to force compliance – or to get to the point where a property is so bad it requires demolition.

The problem hasn’t escaped the attention of Cooper. He said his hands are tied because the city lacks the money needed to demolish the eyesores.

8 Responses to What’s worse than a condemned house? Try living next to one

  1. rob

    July 13, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    tear down the burned out houses, turn them into residential parking lots. charge like $30 a week for a parking pass.

  2. Already looking into that, unfortunately most lots are about 27 feet wide, not quite enough room for a line of cars and room to back up and pull out.

    Now 2 lots side by side could provide parking for about 16 cars, one of those on each street would be a godsend for some of our downtown one way streets with limited parking.

    some people have suggested parking lots, parks, community gardens, solar/wind installations, little streets to cross over,etc. any other ideas?

  3. keysha tate

    September 23, 2015 at 9:10 am

    I feel your pain!I happen to be going through the same thing…Could you please direct me in the right direction. Where do I start to have a condemned piece of trash next door to me removed? People from all over are starting to dump trash there..I own the house but my aunt who is a senior citizen and handicap resides in the home. I would appreciate any info you could share.

  4. Mary holt

    August 18, 2019 at 10:58 am

    I live next to a house that’s been vacant for 2 yrs, ownership of bank I believe. It a horrible thing, I have had many comments about the mess next door..nobodies doing ANYTHING, I’ve even know people interested in “flipping” the house.

  5. Bonnie B Lindsey

    March 10, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    Could be worse. I live next door to an old theater that was condemned by the county before they sold it. The woman tried to raise money to redo it but after 2 years the roof fell in.Now they want it to come down but the owner doesn’t have the money to take it down (black mold and asbestos are involved) new crack are working their way around the building and our side of it the building is bowing out. I want to send a letter to the city saying if it comes down on our property and home that I will (in part) sue both the town and the property owner but need an idea of just how to word it. Any ideas?

  6. Valerie

    February 9, 2021 at 12:20 pm

    How long do a homeowner get to clean up their condemned home, no actions has been done to clean out the trash……found out in Sept 2020 they haven’t taken the trash out in year …..my condo was infested with insects…..what right do we have as homeowners…..keep calling the city and sending emails, they keep telling me the when tenants get back on their feet they will start working on it….this proceed is unfair….I can’t sell my home

  7. Daniel Richard Minnich

    October 27, 2022 at 9:29 am

    I’m still needing to know the whole story about condemned houses immediately! …

  8. Paula

    December 15, 2022 at 9:46 pm

    I live on one side of a half double. The other side was condemned. My neighbor is an excessive hoarder. I have been experiencing issues because of her. I reported her to the city two years ago. They said they could not go in without her permission. It took her boyfriend being unresponsive and emts going in to actually expose how unfit her home is. Now I am stuck next door. I cannot afford to move. Will the city actually follow up with me? Do I have any legal recourse?

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