BETTER CALL BEHNKEN: Pinellas neighbors fuming after storm trashes nuisance house

PALM HARBOR, Fla (WFLA) – A  dilapidated, abandoned home that is driving Palm Harbor residents crazy is now even worse, after last week’s storm came through.

Wind tore off part of the stucco, wood and insulation, leaving the home, at 525 Westwinds Drive, with rafters that are fully exposed.

“We’re in the danger zone now,” said Debbie Lane, who lives nearby.

Residents are worried another storm could rip off the whole roof.

Residents in Palm Harbor’s Baywood Village are upset about the house that has been stuck in foreclosure limbo for years, and now it’s stuck in demo limbo.

The homeowner, Bonnie Post, has told Better Call Behnken that she turned the home back over to the bank. She says she gave permission last year for the county to tear it down and does not understand why the county and the bank don’t take action.

“I just assumed they were going to take responsibility for tearing it down, like they said they would,” Post said, pointing out that she gave permission last year for the county to move ahead with demolition.”

But court documents show that Post, after she abandoned the home, hired an attorney and fought the foreclosure for years. Her case was dismissed in 2013 but she did not move back or start taking care of the home. Instead, she moved to another house in Palm Harbor. She fought a foreclosure there, too, and won that case as well.

Her old neighbors, near the dilapidated home on Westwinds Drive, are furious.

County officials tell 8 Better Call Behnken they want to tear the house down because it is not only an eyesore, but now neighbors claim it is dangerous and has rats. But Pinellas County Code Enforcement Director Todd Myers says the county has not been able to obtain approval from the lender involved with this home. That has residents fuming.

“The home is worth nothing, so it’s only land value, so I would think they would want to tear it down and get out of it what they could,” said Diane Gray, who lives across the street and said the abandoned home is driving down her property value.

This house has been empty and decaying for years, after owner Post left and stopped paying her mortgage.

Myers said he did get permission a year ago from both Post and Bank of America. But then, he contends the bank changed its mind.

“It is difficult because it makes our job more difficult, it is what brought you here to talk to me today,” Myers said.

So we called the bank for answers and things got even more confusing. A bank spokesman says another bank is servicing the loan, and it’s unclear which lender gets to make this big decision. The spokesman called back later to say it may not even be necessary for the bank to grant permission.

The bank did promise to keep investigating this situation to find out what can be done to help these residents.

On Friday, bank Spokesman Rick Simon sent this statement to Better Call Behnken-

“Bank of America is committed to working with the county, Ms. Post and the sub-servicer that manages her mortgage toward resolution of this situation within the next 30 to 60 days. Given the complexity of the situation — including the dismissal of the foreclosure, the property owner’s apparent disinterest in the property, legal requirements and other considerations — it is not a process that can be completed in a day or even a week, or be completed by the bank alone.”

The bank has pledged to take care of this problem within 30 to 60 days. That promise was made Aug. 19, but residents say it’s time to move faster.

“You can now see through to the roof,” Lane said. “So with the next storm, the wind could go through and uplift the roof possibly. It looks horrible. It’s scary as heck.

SEE HOW ‘BETTER CALL BEHNKEN’ HAS HELPED OTHERS- provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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