Bank apologizes for condition of abandoned home, has grass mowed to delight of neighbors

GRESHAM, Ore. -- Abandoned homes are victims of the troubled economy. Many of them go without care for months or even years. In Gresham, two women are wondering who's responsible for upkeep with the owners MIA.

"This is an old neighborhood, you know, as far as Gresham Goes. I like the neighbors. I like the neighborhood. And, I grew up here," Ghislaine Owens explained.

Owens also loves her home on Northeast Wasco Street.

"Never had any problems or issues until this transpired next door," she said.

Owens is talking about the house directly next door to hers. The owners moved away three years ago. Squatters lived there for a while. Now, it's a symbol of neglect in the neighborhood.

Claudette Naylor lives across the street, and is the Neighborhood Watch Captain.

"Driving into our neighborhood you kind of grimace when you see something like this," Naylor said.

She's afraid the mess is causing other problems for the other 40 homes on the street.

"Financially it brings down our price range," Naylor explained.

In the front of the house, the front yard is covered in weeds, some that are at least a foot high. The back yard is even worse; knee-high in some places. There's also clothes and trash in the yard.

"The city did clean it up once but it was a one shot deal that the city said they would do," said Owens.

The City of Gresham boarded up the home last summer. Owens and Naylor believe that took care of a safety issue, but it didn't improve the look of the property. So they took matters into their own hands.

"Ghislaine and I didn't like the looks of it so we decided to whitewash the plywood. So we came and painted one day," Naylor explained.

Rita Humphrey, a codes inspector for The City of Gresham, told KATU News Reporter Hillary Lake that there are approximately 200 other homes just like this one in Gresham. Humphrey called it a trend that's become "steady" in recent years.

"We always expect to have around 200 of these homes," Humphrey said.

In this case, Humphrey said the city can't do anything about the yard -- it's up to the homeowner. Humphrey said the house looks to be in foreclosure with Wells Fargo. Property records show a couple who now lives in Yakima, Wash. still own it. KATU News Reporter Hillary Lake could not locate a working phone number for the owners.

Wells Fargo Spokesman Tom Unger said in an email, "We typically request the news media give us at least 24 to 48 hours to research a mortgage situation so we can respond with accurate information. We will look into this and get back to you as soon as possible."

The city has opened up a new case against the homeowner based on vegetation. Fines will be assessed, and added to the $13,000 bill he and his wife left behind.

"The city should put a tight freeze or go after the bank to do something about the house," Owens said.

On Friday, Naylor contacted KATU News Reporter HIllary Lake with information that a lawn care service had shown up at the abandoned house to take care of the yard. Naylor said she and Owens are delighted.

Wells Fargo spokesman Tom Unger also sent more information to KATU late Friday afternoon. He said the abandoned house has not gone to forclosure sale yet, so the property isn't bank-owned. However, the bank does have access to the outside property.

"Wells Fargo takes seriously its obligation, consistent with applicable law, to maintain properties for which it has a responsibility. Wells Fargo has a property preservation team that conducts monthly inspections to ensure properties are being maintained in accordance with local standards," said Unger.

Wells Fargo has cleaned up the property before, according to Unger, who also appologized on behalf of the bank for the condition of the house.

The bank "will continue to work to determine the best way to resolve any issues. We apologize for the current state of the property and will work as quickly as possible to clean it up," Unger said.