The signs of neglect are easily recognized by neighbors – overgrown yards of tall grass and noxious weeds; accumulating junk and garbage scattered about the premises; vehicles that are no longer operable just rusting away; building materials strewn about.

Every city in the Shoals has its share of nuisance properties. It’s sad that some property owners — more than you may think — let their properties reach such a sad state of affairs.

Sheffield City Council members recently placed six such properties on the city’s nuisance property list. All six houses had been damaged by fire and left unattended for more than a year.

Getting a property listed as a nuisance starts with a complaint. Public Safety Director and Sheffield Fire Chief Dewey King said neighbors living adjacent or near houses that have become eyesores and possible safety hazards simply get feed up and call the city to voice their concerns.

That starts a process that includes a site visit by city officials to determine if the complaint is valid. Once verified, the city must determine who owns the property, which can take time if the property owner lives outside the area.

Notices must be posted on the houses or buildings, and letters sent to the property owners, who are given 30 days to appear before the city council to explain what they are going to do to correct the problem. They can choose to demolish the structure(s), or provide proof they plan to renovate the structure(s).

Sooner or later, if the property owner doesn’t take action, the city can elect to clean up the property and attach a lien on the property to recover its costs.

That’s an expensive option city leaders had rather avoid.

The unfortunate thing about nuisance properties is the time it takes to resolve the problem. Take the six houses on Sheffield’s list. Once of those houses was damaged by fire in 2016. Neighbors have lived with that eyesore for more than three years.

It’s a shame there has to be laws to govern such problems. One would think the owners would take enough pride in their property to keep it looking at least halfway decent. The least they could do is put forth minimal effort.

When someone’s property starts resembling a junkyard and it gets bad enough to draw complaints from neighbors and a visit from a building inspector, it’s clear the problem needs addressing.

This spring, we encourage all residents in the Shoals to take a long, hard look around their properties and put together a plan to get rid of their junk. Make a few hauls to the landfill. Clean up the weeds. Repair structures that need to be repaired, or tear them down and clear the lot.

In short, residents with nuisance properties should stop making excuses and tackle the problem themselves.

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