Lynchburg encourages homeowners to register vacant homes in program

City leaders say there's a $400 penalty every year you don't sign up

By Magdala Louissaint - Lynchburg Bureau Reporter

LYNCHBURG, Va. - "Man I feel good. A nice little scenery," Larry Culbreath said, relieved to see the abandoned house he's lived next to for three years be demolished. 

"Possums, raccoons, rats all coming out of that house," Culbreath said.

Lynchburg firefighters were called to the 1700 block of Miller Drive Tuesday night for a fire and again on Thursday morning when the city decided to tear it down  because of its condition.

Family members at the scene told 10 News it was their mother's house and it had been vacant for five years. Neighbors said they'd seen squatters living in it.

City officials say there's about 400 vacant buildings in the Hill City. Not all are homes.

"And we have seen the numbers of buildings, vacant building registrations go down over the last little bit. So that's a good positive sign," Kent White, with the community development office.

Council members reauthorized its vacant building registration program two years ago. 

City officials say it's an owner's responsibility to register a building that's been empty for more than 12 months and without power. 

"Our staff does quartly inspections of these to make sure the grass is cut and the structure is secure. (And) to not allow any unlawful entry," White said.

City leaders add there's a $400 penalty every year you don't sign up. The city also relies on the community's help alerting it to trespassers living in empty homes with green signs.

"They should report that to the police departments non-emergency number," White said.

As for the neighbors who are glad to see the rodent problem on their block solved, 10 News reporter Magdala Louissaint asked Culbreath, "So you're glad to see all of that gone?" He replied, "Oh yeah, I hope it don't come back."
 
City leaders tell 10 News they'll clean up the pile of wood soon, then speak with the family members to figure out who will foot the bill for tearing it down . 

If you need to register your home into Lynchburg's vacant building program click here.

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