BLIGHT BEAT: Insurer slow to demolish charred remains of Monroe Street home in Ypsilanti
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Ypsilanti officials are waiting for an insurance company to make good on its promise to demolish and remove the remains of a burned-out house on Monroe Street on the city's south side.
In April, the home at 869 Monroe Street burned in a fire.
An 80-year-old woman living in the home was injured in the blaze, which officials said was ignited by bad wiring on a space heater.
Ypsilanti Fire Marshal Jon Ichesco said the woman grabbed several belongings and fled to the porch, where she was unable to descend to safety without assistance. She received minor burns from flames that shot out the window.
The house was put on the city’s dangerous buildings list, and Ichesco began moving forward with the demolition process soon after the fire.
Among other issues, the exterior of the home is largely plywood now because the fire did so much damage to the structure. The building is considered structurally unsafe and in danger of collapse.
The home’s insurer, AAA of Michigan, offered to bid out the demolition if the city waived the insurance withholding fees. Per state statute, the city can hold up to $7,600 of the insurance company's money in an escrow fund until the house is demolished.
Ichesco said the insurance company and city agree that the house is a total loss, and an insurance company can usually arrange the demolition of a house much quicker than the city can.
Ichesco released those funds to AAA because it planned to demolish the home, but said the insurance company has been slow to move forward on the project.
The house is one of three on Monroe Street and four on Ypsilanti’s south side that city building officials say are dangerous buildings that need to be demolished or brought up to code.
“They're detrimental not only to property values, but to the neighborhood mentally," Ichesco said. "It really drags the neighborhood down to have dilapidated properties that make it look like no one cares when other people do."
The city is beginning to target blighted homes through several measures, including a process for addressing structures that fit the definition of a dangerous building per city ordinance and state law.
Once a home is identified as dangerous, Ichesco sets a hearing with a city-appointed dangerous building officer who tries to work out a solution to address the situation either by bringing the building up to code or arranging demolition.
If the building’s owner fails to appear at the hearing, the issue goes to the City Council, which can approve the building's demolition. If there is resistance to that order from the property owner, the city can bring the issue before a Washtenaw County Trial Court judge.
"I think it's a positive," Ichesco said. "I wouldn't want to live next to these homes."