A year after we told you a Johnson City landlord racked up more code complaints than anyone else in the Tri-Cities we’ve learned inspectors believe one of the man’s personal residences has turned into a health hazard for his neighborhood.
An April 2014 Community Watchdog investigation revealed the landlord, Kenneth Miller, racked up 51 code complaints in one year on 30 different properties, some of which he blamed on his tenants. However, Johnson City code inspectors are now taking aim at one of his personal homes on South North Street.
Inspectors say not only is the house structurally unsafe, it is responsible for a foul odor and is a health hazard to the neighborhood. They sent the owner a letter late last month citing him for 13 code violations in all.
Neighbor David Norman has spent weeks documenting the problems at and around the property. He provided us with pictures showing everything from weeds and tall grass to rats.
“The rats eat the plug wires off of my car,” Norman said. “They’ve been in my lawnmower chewing on wires and stuff. There are some big ones.”
Although Norman says those issues are a problem, he says the smell is the most difficult thing to deal with.
“If you get a good whiff of it you know exactly what I’m talking about,” Norman said. “I’d say death is the only way (to describe it). I mean something rotten, rotting corpse.”
Despite all of those issues, which impact people’s health and safety, Johnson City-Washington County Animal Control says the nine dogs that call the property home are not at risk. Wayne Thomas says he looked at every one of them.
“The animals are in great shape,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong. They’re not sickly, they’re not flea-ridden, there’s nothing physically wrong. They brought them outside to me one at a time like I asked them to do and I asked them if they mind if I went in and they said, ‘No,’ they would rather me not go in.”
Since Thomas wasn’t allowed inside the home, he says he only can make decisions based on what he witnessed and smelled and he says he’s smelled far worse at other homes.
“There is a distinct odor from the home,” Thomas said.
“That doesn’t constitute any kid of animal violation?” we asked.
“It’s not anything unless I actually saw inside the home,” Thomas said.
So what does the owner have to say? Miller declined an on-camera interview, but by phone argued the violations in question sound worse than they really are. Still, he admitted the property probably needs to be cleaned up. Miller, who is currently in poor health, says he intends to bring the house back up to code.
After the city’s letter went out, inspectors report crews cleared some of the trees and weeds around the property.
Norman says in the past, Miller has made an effort to address his concerns. However, this time he says he is relieved the city is now involved too.
“I hate that it really came to this,” Norman said. “I’ve been nice about it for so many years. I can’t let it go.”
Miller has roughly two weeks to start fixing the problems or risk getting cited into court. City inspectors plan on checking the house again on June 22nd. In addition, animal control says officers will continue to keep an eye on the house too.
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