York City officials are getting no response from the owners of a Columbia Avenue property after a section of the exterior rear wall collapsed Sunday, making the house uninhabitable to its renters and causing a potential safety hazard.
Building code official Steve Buffington said the house at 43 Columbia Ave. is a foreclosure owned by Fannie Mae, a national mortgage finance company.
"We spoke with the real estate agent and, that night, they didn't want to come out," he said. "The engineer said it would be stable but needs to be shored up in the very near future."
The rear wall of the house is still exposed, with the kitchen visible from the back yard, which causes a safety concern to residents of the attached property at 41 Columbia Ave., Buffington said. The two homes are separated only by a wall of horse hair plaster, he said.
"Obviously it's in their best interest as well to get the property repaired and closed up," he said. "We just have to be able to get through to (Fannie Mae) and impress the urgency on them, but we haven't gotten a call back from them yet. Unfortunately, when these things go back to mortgage companies, it's very difficult to get in touch with them."
The family that had been renting the house can't return or secure the rest of their belongings because the building has been posted unsafe, Buffington said. The incident "seemed to be a culmination" of neglect, he said, because the gas and other utilities at the property had been turned off prior to the incident.
An engineer with city-contracted C.S. Davidson has said the property is stable, however uninhabitable and in need of structural reinforcement, Buffington said. Had the engineer deemed it unstable, the city would have evacuated the attached property and cordoned off the area. But the city is not responsible for maintenance of a private property, he said.
"We're just going to have to continue to monitor it ... and run this past the city solicitors."
Hole in house: The roughly 5-foot by 9-foot section of the rear wall came crashing down just before 6:30 p.m. Sunday, leaving a pile of bricks in the backyard and a gaping hole in the house.
A woman and her son who live in the rental three-story home and were assisted by the York/Adams Chapter of the American Red Cross.
A fire official said the home was likely built in the late 1800s or early 1900s.
According to York County tax documents, the last recorded owner was Carlos Wright. The home is assessed at $17,840.
Two communications representatives from Fannie Mae did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.