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Madison County Man Angry over "Messy" Neighbor

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

MADISON COUNTY, Tenn.- Jack Rainey says he has tried to ignore the corner house on the end of his street in Oakfield for several years but the conditions are getting worse.

"There is hot water heaters, stoves, ovens, refrigerators, and a hospital bed just every kind of junk that you can imagine," said Rainey. "They've got reclining chairs sitting on the lawn with fans. It's just like going to the zoo."

Neighbors said they believe the condition of the property is one of the main reasons why several of the houses on their street have remained for sale.

"It's really embarrassing to drive by there we have even thought about moving somewhere else, our neighborhood is really nice except for that house," said Rainey.

Madison County Code Enforcement officials said there are property maintenance guidelines set in place for properties considered to be neighborhood nuisances. Investigators said property owners are given at least 10 days notice after the initial complaints are validated. Officials said if the owner does not clean up the mess after notification, then county officials come in to do the job instead. The property owner must pay back the cost of clean up but isn't charged interest or additional fees. Neighbors said they believe the county guidelines are too lenient.

"I think that's really ridiculous. They should be able to make that man clean up his house and yard," said Rainey.

Officials said the problem is the way property violations are handled within the county. Investigators said there is a lack of penalties given to deter violations. Right now there are currently no penalties or fees given to repeat offenders living in the county. Residents said their biggest problem is neighbors are not discouraged from violating property codes due to lack of consequences.

"Anybody that is not going to be punished in some form, it's not going to change their behavior," said Rainey.

Although the property owner must pay back the principal cost of maintenance, investigators admit their property amendment needs more work. Officials said Madison County is currently watching and maintaining more than 25 properties, one reason why investigators said they are looking to adopt penalties and fees into a future amendment of the International Property Maintenance Code.