Neighbors look for help with 2 'trashed' houses

Neighbors look for help with 2 'trashed' houses
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Homeowners in a northeast Bakersfield area have a real eyesore in their neighborhood. And making it worse, they're seeing double -- two houses with trash piled up outside.

And it looked like one problem was only making the second situation worse, but now property owners say they will take care of the mess.

On Monday, Eyewitness News discovered one house on Apollo Street had been bought from the bank by a local investment company, and they planned to fix it up for re-sale. That's good news for neighbors, because the front yard of that white house had been piled high with trash and junk for months.

But, the brown house next to it had similar conditions, and on Monday morning men arrived at that second house to clean up that mess. However, neighbors said the men simply threw the stuff over a short wall onto the driveway next door.

It was hard to tell how much more junk that added to the already big stacks of stuff in front of the white house.

But, Steve Carpenter said he saw it for himself. "My wife and I, and the neighbors, all watched them throwing all that trash into the other yard," Carpenter said. The neighbor said he'd never before seen the men who arrived that morning.

When an Eyewitness News reporter got there, the driveway of the brown house was clear and a man was watering the lawn with a garden hose. He didn't answer any questions, though a reporter asked him to have the property-owner call us.

The spokesman for the investment company that purchased the white house said he wasn't aware the mess on that property had just increased, but he figured they'd have to take care of it. "Whatever is in our yard, we've got to clean up now," Preet Bhathal told Eyewitness News.

Bhathal said his company bought the white house at a trustee auction about two months ago. They were aware people in the house weren't taking care of the property, but didn't exactly know how much stuff was also inside the small house. Bhathal said it took a while before they could start cleaning it up.

They took possession of the house on Oct. 1, Bhathal said. But evicting residents takes time, and lately it's taking even longer. "It took 45 days for the Sheriff's Office lock-out," Bhathal explained. "The courts are slow."

Then, they have to wait even longer for the people living there to respond. "If they have personal belongings at the house, we have 15 days before we can start removing stuff," Bhathal said.

It turns out, there was a similar situation with the brown house. Bakersfield City Code Enforcement supervisor David Paquette told Eyewitness News that property-owner was trying to evict tenants. His department started investigating that property last July.

Neighbors said they'd seen code officers at the brown house. "They've come out, but I don't know what they do," Carpenter said. "I have no idea."

The code officer said his department had tried to work with the owner of the brown house. At one point they inspected, and gave him an extension so he could get the place cleaned up.

But, code enforcement had run out of patience. The city had hired a crew to come out and do the clean-up on Monday. However, they arrived a couple hours after the other men had tossed the mess over on the wall.

Paquette said he checked with the owner of the brown house, who reported he had hired workers "off the street," and they're the ones who showed up on Monday morning just ahead of the city-hired crew.

By Tuesday afternoon, Paquette had given both property owners phone numbers so they could connect and sort things out.

The investors' spokesman told Eyewitness News he'd been in touch with the owner of the brown house, and that man was willing to share the costs of the clean-up. Paquette said the investor's crew was already working in front of the white house, but the mess is so big it'll probably take several days.

He added that neighbors with concerns about problem properties can call Bakersfield Code Enforcement at (661) 326-3712.

Neighbors say they are relieved somebody is doing something about the double dose of trouble.

"That's really what we want," Carpenter said. "We want someone to come out and clean it up, and do something. It's really an eyesore."

Bhathal said his business, AP Real Estate Holdings, started up a couple years ago. As investors, they buy homes in foreclosure and fix them up for resale to first-time home buyers.

Bhathal promised his company would work with the concerned neighbors in northeast Bakersfield, saying that's what works best. "It helps when the neighbors really are taking an interest. It helps everyone."