Burying 'zombie' foreclosures, one house at a time

Article Courtesy of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune

By Michael Scott Davidson

Published July 25, 2014


SARASOTA - For the better half of a year, the deserted house on Rita Street has looked like a ghost from the Hurricane Charley era.

A tattered blue tarp is stretched across the top of the forlorn cream-colored building at 1816 Rita St., covering about half of the dilapidated structure's roof. The rest droops in shreds from the former home's sides and lies crumpled in pieces on its lawn.

On the ground nearby is the property's wooden picket fence gate, ripped from its metal hinges. Brown, dead palm fronds are littered over a ruined pavilion that haunts the backyard. Black and orange “No Trespassing” signs adorn the house. 


Court records show that the roughly 1,100-square-foot home was foreclosed on in October. Neighbors said the house quickly became an eyesore after it was vacated in early summer 2013.

Luckily for them, this former zombie will soon be buried.

A permit for the house's demolition is ready to issue, said Guy McCauley, an investigation supervisor with the Sarasota County Building Department.

Kentucky-based U.S. Bank National Association officially repossessed the home in December after the homeowner's estate lost a $54,156.19 final judgment in October. After the repossession, the tarp went up.

Since its repossession, the house is no longer a so-called zombie foreclosure, a deserted property that has started the default process

The property located at 1816 Rita St. in Sarasota County has been deserted since early summer 2013, neighbors said. Since then, the house has been repossessed by U.S. Bank National Association, but has continued to slip into dilapidation. A permit for the house's demolition is ready to issue.

but has not yet been repossessed or auctioned. But for a few months, 1816 Rita St. was one of nearly 1,600 Southwest Florida homes stuck in legal limbo.

Now, McCauley said, Graber Excavating & Demolition has 180 days since the permit approval date of June 27 to retrieve the demolition permit and destroy the house.

That comes as welcome news to next door neighbor Jeffrey Denby. Denby, 61, said he's been wondering when any type of work might be done to remedy the vacant property's apparent disrepair. 

“I don't care what they do with it,” he said of the house. “All it does is bring down the property value of the area.”

The permit approval arrives at an opportune time, McCauley said. The county's code enforcement call center received a complaint about the property on Wednesday.

“Now that there's a permit ready for pickup, it's going to be a moot point because they're going to demo it,” he said. 

As for others dealing with unsightly blue tarps deteriorating upon former neighbor's roofs, he said, there isn't much county's building department or code enforcement can do. 

“There's no tarp ordinance in the county,” McCauley said. “I have that problem on several properties but there's nothing we can do about it.”

Charles Marchione, a code enforcement supervisor for Sarasota County, said his department has received complaints about houses covered in tarps, but that it was not a prolific problem. 

“It was more prevalent during the crash,” he said about the presence of tarp-covered houses. “My impression right now is its slowing down in that respect, there's not as many as there once was.”