Dilapidated homes may be demolished at taxpayers’ expense

VIDEO: Tax dollars going toward home demolition on James Island

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The town of James Island wants to improve the look of some neighborhoods after complaints about run down houses and taxpayers may be footing the bill.

If nobody claims a dilapidated house, taxpayers in that area contribute to the fund the tear-down.

James Island Mayor Bill Woosley says there are several deemed-dilapidated houses on James Island, but only a few of them are currently legally going through the process of being torn down or repaired. He says the process usually begins with a complaint from a neighbor, then the building inspectors investigate the house. If the house is marked legally dilapidated due to any number of threats to a person, then the town moves forward with trying to find the owner.

“They aren’t fit to live in. It could mean that the roof is gone, there are termites, no flooring, out of date plumbing, things that are hazardous for people trying to live there,” Municipal Association of South Carolina spokesman Scott Slatton says.

If the owner can’t be found, doesn’t comply to the town’s requests, or doesn’t care about the home, then the town will take action on their own by using money from a fund that comes from taxpayer dollars.

If the town takes charge of the demolition, they will then put a lien on that piece of property. A lien is a financial marker put on a home so when it is sold or bought, the person then becomes responsible for paying the town back for the demolition and monthly maintenance. The town will ultimately get their money back, but the taxpayer won’t.

The average cost of tearing down a home is anywhere between $4,500 and $6,000.

James Island is in the process of potentially tearing down three homes, bringing the total cost that needs to be currently funded to almost $20,000. Taxpayers fund every bit of that at some point over the years.

Woosley says these homes are a hazard and an eye-sore, so taking them down is in the town’s best interest, even if it does cost everyone a little bit of money.

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