Got bad property? Pay up

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The city this month slapped nearly $40,000 worth of liens on negligent property owners, some of whom said they had no idea of the move.
Tupelo City Council members last week approved the liens, which will be applied to 10 different properties where the city did work.
In most cases, the city had demolished dilapidated structures on the properties. In another case, it had drained and filled a mosquito-breeding pond. And in one case, it cleared yard debris.
All the work occurred between April 2008 and March 2010 after public hearings on the conditions of the properties. The amount of the liens – which range from $1,542 to $17,776 – represent the cost incurred to the city for the work, plus 20 percent.
“We’re trying to recoup money,” said BJ Teal, director of the city Department of Development Services.
Each year the city boards up, demolishes, mows, cleans, or otherwise secures dozens of private properties whose owners fail to do so – despite warnings and public hearings.
Tupelo’s code requires owners keep their yards trim and structures safe. The Development Services Department enforces the code.
But some property owners said they didn’t know about the liens. Mack Parks, whose Hodges Circle house the city tore down last year, was surprised to learn about the $1,740 lien now assessed to him.
He said he’s trying to sell the property and worries that the lien will hamper that process.
Miteshkum Patel also was unaware Tupelo placed a lien under his defunct company’s name for boarding and securing the former Trace Inn. The amount tops $17,700.
Patel said JSK Hospitality no longer owns the abandoned structure since declaring bankruptcy last year. Lee County property records, however, continue to list JSK as owner.
The liens will be added to each property’s tax assessment, but it’s unclear whether the city truly will recoup all its money.
Teal said chances are good. City attorney John Hill said that, while it’s the best way to try to get the money, it’s not always successful.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.