"Amnesty Week" aims to draw housing violators - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

"Amnesty Week" aims to draw housing violators

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Every day, the City of Toledo opens at least five new criminal cases against housing violators. Many of them never show up to court and never take care of the code violations, and the backlog adds up.

To get those violators into court, Toledo Municipal Court Judge Allen McConnell is deeming the week of July 27th "Amnesty Week."

"It's basically a forgiveness program trying to forgive different things so we can get them on track," Judge McConnell said. "If we can get them in to address the problem, we can work with them and even in some cases provide help for them."

A total of 1,954 property owners are currently in violation of Toledo Municipal Court orders and have bench warrants out for their arrest. If violators appear in court, McConnell says he will waive their warrants, along with the steep fines and potential jail time that comes with them.

The court held a similar initiative in 2004, but it brought in less than 15 percent of violators. McConnell says he's hoping to bring more violators in this time around, in order to address housing problems and improve the quality of life in Toledo's neighborhoods.

"Once that house begins to deteriorate, it impacts the other houses in the neighborhood. It impacts the value of your home if you live next door," McConnell said.

Lou Owczarzak, who lives on Dexter Street in North Toledo, understands that. She lives next door to a house that's been vacant for five years. She worries about the rodents the house attracts, worries that it could catch fire and endanger her home and worries about the safety of her great-grandchildren who visit often.

"It's getting to be terrible, it's just terrible. We need something done with the house," Owczarzak said.

She hopes her neighbor takes advantage of Amnesty Week. To do so, property owners simply need to show up to Municipal Court during business hours next week. A clerk will walk them through the court process. A full list of homeowners with bench warrants posted for them is available at http://toledohousingcourt.org/warrants/.

Copyright 2011 WTOL. All rights reserved.

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