geoffrey gauchet

Other Peoples' Property: Wherein I Yelled at a Judge

So, if you've been following along, you'll know that I've been fighting with the city for almost 2 years about a nuisance property behind our house. There were rats, opposum, 6foot grass, a tree fallen on my fence, and lots more. 

Anyway, today was finally the hearing for the property. I went to it, armed with a list of old case numbers and dates against the property, and photos.

The property owner was there, which I was nervous about. I didn't like my name being attached to the one who reported the property, but, you gotta do things sometimes.

Anyway, so the Code  Enforcement official entered the file into record and the Judge accepted it. CE said they sent another inspector out two days ago and the property was still harboring rodents and had high grass, though it had been cut. Then the property owner was sworn in and she gave her testimony. She had photos from Saturday showing the lot being cut, and she and her husband and cleared the trash from the lot themselves. As for the trees on the lot, the lot cutting companies wouldn't cut them down and haul them away, so she's trying to find a company to do it, which is the hold-up there.

She also said that the church next to us had sent her a few letters and she tried responding to them, but never heard back. 

Apparently, and I unfortunately believe this, she has been having trouble getting lot cutters to actually go out and cut the grass. I believe this because customer service here isn't exactly a strong point.

Anyway, so the CE official then opened the floor to me to give my testimony (I didn't get sworn in, which was lame). I started by saying I was happy that the grass had been cut and that I literally ran around the corner to check it out when I heard the tractor. But I said my main concern was that the tree limb and grass underneath it are right up on my fence still. I went on about how we had rats in the house and how our termite inspector found the burrows under the slab of the house and about the opposum and she seemed to look genuinely upset about it.

But then things took a turn.

I basically went into this planning to testify against the City more so than the property owner. So I said how I wanted it on record that I am absolutely unhappy with how the process works. The procedure is to call 3-1-1, but I feel like every complaint I made went into the trash. Nothing ever happened. I pulled out a copy of the 2011 Case against the property and showed them that on April 19, 2011 the lot was inspected. I then showed them print-outs of Google StreetView of the property that clearly show "April 2011" was when the StreetView photos were taken. I argued that there was no way this passed inspection. CE said, "is there any indication that this property passed inspection?" To which I got angry because she was missing my point. I said "No, actually. In fact, there's no indication that anything happened after that inspection, that clearly wasn't done properly."

The judge said something else I can't remember and that's when I went on a tirade.

"It is absolutely appalling to me that it has taken this long to get here. The initial complaints against this property were in 2011 when I first moved into this house and since then I've had rats in my house, rats under my house, opposum in my yard and trash, and a tree fall on my fence. There is absolutely no reason that any of that should've happened if this had been taken care of two years ago. My main complaint is with the City of New Orleans. You have a system and it doesn't work. Look at this list of cases against this property and the inspection dates. Why was this most recent case opened July 12, 2011 and an inspection didn't occur until May 2, 2013? Explain that to me."

The Judge turned that over to the CE official and she said she'd have to look into it. The Judge told her to take down my information and to do some deeper research. They also both said how this is the "new" Code Enforcement and that this shouldn't be an issue ever again. Here's hoping.

In the end, the property owner was fined $100, plus $75 in court fees. She was actually very nice and apologized to me over and over. I think she actually felt bad. Hopefully she gets the rest taken care of and sells it off to someone who'll take care of it. She also gave me her contact information in the event there are any other problems so she can handle it right away. I appreciated that.

So, after making 3 complaints via 3-1-1, one letter to my councilmember that was forwarded to Code Enforcement, and two phone calls to my councilmember's office, all over the last 2 years, things have finally happened. Hopefully this is the end of this!

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