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Who's responsible for condemned houses?

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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

The City of Albany Municipal Court has ordered an Albany man to demolish a home that was gutted by fire in July. The homeowner thinks the city should tear it down. He claims he doesn't own it anymore because the property was seized for unpaid taxes last year.

What does Georgia law say? With so many people losing their homes and property because of unpaid taxes, this story may surprise a lot of those folks. Even after your property is seized, you are still responsible for it until someone else purchases it.  

The big two story home at 414 N. Jackson Street, just blocks from downtown Albany, burned July 9th. The structure was so damaged firefighters could not go in, because of the danger of it collapsing. But four months later it still sits open, a real danger that anyone could walk into. Thursday Albany Municipal Court Judge Willie Weaver declared the structure a public nuisance, and ordered the owner, Scott Dismuke to demolish it.

10:17:38 Albany City Attorney Nathan Davis said "the court ordered that the property owner abate the nuisance by demolishing the structure within 120 days."

But Dismuke, who would not go on camera for this story, disagrees that he is still responsible for the home. He says he inherited it, and moved the family business out of the building because it was in need of repairs,....and Dismuke said historical society requirements made those repairs too expensive.

After sitting empty for years, Dismuke surrendered it in lieu of unpaid taxes, and thought it was now the city's property and the fire damage their problem.

10:18:00 Davis said "Oh, no sir. I'm not at all in agreement with that. If your property is sold at a tax sale then you are still the owner until there is a certain procedure to divest you of your title. But until that's done, under Georgia Real Estate law, the buyer at the tax sale has no right to event come on the property until they take further steps."

Just like the Heritage House or the old Pritchett Ford building, the city looks to have the property owner pay for the demolition of nuisance properties. Dismuke told the court he can't afford to demolish the building.

10:18:40 Davis said "If Dismuke is unable to comply with the court order, he'll order the, he'll be obligated to explain his lack of compliance and then the court will decide. After that what else if anything needs to be done."

Dismuke learning that even though his property has been surrendered for unpaid taxes, he is still responsible for the property if it becomes a public nuisance.  

Dismuke has a little less than four months to comply with the court order, but says he just can't afford to pay for the demolition.

A 12-year-old boy who lives in that neighborhood was charged with arson, in the fire that destroyed the home.

His trial in juvenile court was scheduled for last week but was continued.