Abandoned, rat-infested home demolished months after ‘Better Call Behnken’ call

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PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Baywood Village neighborhood in Palm Harbor has waited for five years to get rid of an abandoned, rat-infested home.

The house, at 525 Westwinds Drive, was finally torn down, four months after Better Call Behnken got involved and encouraged the homeowner, the bank and county officials to work together.

“We are so happy,” said Pam McLaughlin, a neighbor. “We have waited so long for this day.”

Pinellas County hired Cross Construction Services to demolish the dangerous, unstable house. It took about an hour to turn the house into rubble.

Residents called 8 On Your Side’s Better Call Behnken in August, fed up they could not get action on their own.

The house was caught up in foreclosure limbo, after owner Bonnie Post walked away and stopped taking care of the home.

Bank of America tried for years to foreclose, but Post hired a foreclosure defense attorney and won her case.

The bank filed for foreclosure again and county code enforcement fined Post for failure to maintain her house. Fines are up to more than $500,000.

None of that helped neighbors who were left to deal with the mess.

After four months and several 8 On Your Side stories, Pinellas County moved forward.

Recent storms caused the home to become dangerous, said Todd Myer, giving the county the legal authority to tear it down. Bank officials then decided to dismiss the foreclosure case, due to the condition of the home.

Myer said it cost around $35,000 to demolish the home. That money would be paid back when the property sells to a new owner. For now, though, this process means Post now owns a lot, prime for new home construction.

Myer said she would have to pay the $35,000 demolition fees before selling and would have to settle with the county for the $500,000 in fines, likely for a hefty reduction.

Neighbors are thrilled to be done with this abandoned home, and they are hopeful a new home, with a better view, will be there shortly.

“We’re right around the corner so we look at it every day when we come in and when we leave,” said Brooke Petrarca.

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