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Village looks to start probate process on house PDF Print E-mail
Written by JOHN MORTON   
Wednesday, 07 June 2017 16:56

Unpaid water bill makes it a creditor, opens door to legal process

At long last, the Village of Fredonia has a game plan regarding the house at 235 Manor Drive that appears abandoned. And it is an unpaid portion of a water bill that could help resolve its dilemma.  
 With the five children of the homeowner, who died in 2012, not taking action on claiming ownership or responsibility of the dilapidated house, the village as a creditor can petition for the start of the probate process — the legal process wherein the estate of a decedent is administered. Bob Feind, who serves as the village’s attorney, advised it of the course of action at a June 1 Village Board meeting.
“We’ve got the water bill,” he said. “That’s enough to make us a creditor.”
Trustees asked Feind to write a letter to the heirs, informing them the village will take such action after 30 days.
“Don’t give them too much time,” Trustee Jill Bertram said. “They’ve had different colored tarps (covering holes in the roof) for 15 years.”
Board members worry that additional stalling from the family members, who can’t agree on a plan and argue that the home isn’t abandoned, could take place.
“If they are coming back and cutting the grass, is that abandoned?” Don Dohrwardt, the village president, asked.
Issues with long grass, debris outdoors and a foundation the village deemed as structurally unsound are among other condition issues that have brought complaints from neighbors.
In probate, a personal representative would be assigned to the family, Feind said, and could take action toward its fate as court-appointed owner.
“The representative would give notice to potential heirs and creditors of the value of the property and its contents,” Feind said.
If the property is sold, the heirs would receive the proceeds regardless, minus any debts to creditors and expenses incurred by the village, Feind added, noting the process typically takes about one year.
“The heirs would be the ultimate beneficiaries,” he said.
Trustees emphasized that the letter should not cite violations or village codes, but rather say they would help the heirs with a probate petition if they wanted. Or, if there’s an effort made by them to fix the house, they would back off.
“Otherwise, we need to say, ‘Look, we’re going to do it,’” Feind said.
However, the family has been defiant with such efforts, Dohrwardt told Feind.
“We just want it livable and fixed up and not an eyesore,” he said. “We’ve been trying to help the family for some time now.”
Feind also weighed in on the village’s curiosity regarding condemnation. He urged it not do so.
“It could appear to the public that you’re trying to take the house,” he said.
Furthermore, he said the property has value.
“It’s not something you’d usually see a raze order on,” Feind said.
The land has an assessed value of $40,000, the village reported, while the structure’s is about $115,000 to $123,000. That brings its value as high as $163,000.
However, damages are estimated at about $80,000, or nearly half the property’s value, trustees said.
“It might be simpler to raze it, but in doing so the personal rep would be shirking their responsibility to the heirs,” Feind said. “It would be good to get an appraisal and solicit some bids. There must be some (house) flippers out there.”

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