Respecting property rights

We fully understand the ongoing frustration in Minot regarding apparently abandoned flood-damaged homes. But we agree whole-heartedly with city attorney John Van Grinsven, who stressed this week that the city cannot simply demolish homes without going through the proper legal due process.

Residents of some flooded neighborhoods have complained to the city about seemingly abandoned homes, as well as yards overgrown with weeds or still contining debris from the flood. “Zombie homes,” some residents have taken to calling such residences.

Well, even owners of “zombie homes” have legal rights that cannot simply be dismissed, and as city officials rightly pointed out this week, demolishing an apparently abandoned flood-damaged home isn’t a simple process. And it shouldn’t be.

First District Health Unit can direct the city to demolish a house if the property owner fails to submit a plan to either repair, sell or remove the structure after the FDHU deems a house to be a health hazard. But situations become complicated when a homeowner submits a plan, but doesn’t follow through with the plan, or if a home is secured so it doesn’t present a health hazard. The city is now adjusting those procedures to use administrative search warrants to inspect the interior of secured structures. If a homeowner fails to abate any unsafe conditions and a home is considered more than 50 percent damaged, the health unit could then condemn the structure so it could be razed.

There have been cases where homes have been razed because they were clearly health hazards. But not every incident is clear-cut. The city must respect the rights of property owners, even the owners of a “zombie home.” Residents who unfairly clamor for a flood-damaged home to be removed should first put themselves in that situation, and think about how they would want to be treated by the city.?We agree that there are homes that need to be removed, but it still must be done legally.