Town leaders agreed to take liens out against two properties last week to try to make up for unpaid citations and other fees the homeowners have accrued over about a year’s time.
The move will make it harder for current owners to sell their home, as it stops the title from being transferred until the town receives payment for the citation and any other bills owed to the town, Planning Director Chris Hills said.
“We don’t like to do it, we always prefer to get the citizens to comply voluntarily,” he said. “Our goal is to work with them (but) there are times when it gets to that point.”
The two properties, at 108 Caribbean Court and 112 Ridge St., were both cited last October for having tall or unkempt grass. Hills said while the town proactively monitors for any violations, they wouldn’t cite someone if their grass was slightly over 12 inches, the town’s maximum height.
The original citations do not say how tall the grass was.
Property owners have 10 days from receipt of the citation to remedy the problem or the town will step in and do it for the owner. In the cases on Caribbean Court and Ridge Street, Knightdale Public Works had to cut the grass.
Property owners are also billed for that amount with the citation fee, Hills said.
The way Knightdale has crafted their process for taking a lien out against a property allows the town to essentially add the amount to an owner’s tax bill. That way, if the payment isn’t made, the owner falls behind on taxes, Hills said.
Fair process, unfair service
The property at Ridge Street owes the town a total of $130 and the property at Caribbean Court owes $210.
Dan Denton, the owner at 112 Ridge Street, said when he received the citation, he accepted it.
“I got the notices and didn’t fight it,” he said “It’s something I can’t do anything about.” Denton said he has several health problems that make it impossible to operate a lawn mower on his own.
Since the first time the town cut his grass, he said the town has done it a handful of times. The mowing seems to have stopped now, he said.
Denton said he understood why he got the citation but he did have one complaint: He thinks the town is overcharging him for the service they performed.
Wake County Real Estate records show Denton’s lot is only about a quarter of an acre and Denton said most of the time, town employees only spent about 15 minutes at his lawn. He said he thinks the cost billed to him for that work was unfair.
“That’s not a service, it’s a punitive action,” he said.
Pilar Penaloza owns the property on Caribbean Court, but the California resident said she hasn’t lived in Knightdale for “quite a while.”
Penaloza relies on a property management company to oversee the property, which is rented.
Documents from Knightdale show the letter was addressed to Penaloza at 108 Caribbean Court. Wake County Real Estate records also show Penaloza’s mailing address as 108 Caribbean Court.
Knightdale’s decision to move forward with the liens on the property are in line with some other towns’ recent actions. The town of Garner sued a couple at the end of August for several ordinance violations, including neglecting their backyard pool that became a gathering place for mosquitoes.