KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – In an effort to curb property degradation and deter squatting, officials with the City of Kingsport said several structures are set to be destroyed this year.

According to a press release from the city, 60 cases are pending against buildings that have been reported to city officials and could result in demolition.

The push is part of an effort to improve and maintain property values within the city, and the release also states that the destruction of houses and structures removes squatters who would otherwise live inside.

“Three houses have already been demolished this year,” the release reads. “Two more are out for bid, two cases have been appealed to Sullivan County Chancery Court while six more are ready for the wrecking ball.”

Within Kingsport code, the process to destroy a structure takes multiple steps:

  1. If enough complaints are lodged with the city, the building official inspects the site to determine if a building is deemed unfit for habitation. Kingsport’s current building official is Keith Bruner.
  2. If the structure meets those standards, a dilapidation case is opened against the building and a hearing is scheduled where the owner can make their case in front of the building official.
  3. The building official decides whether the building is habitable or not after the hearing, and if it is found lacking, then an order will be served to the owner requiring either the repair or removal of the structure.
  4. The result of the decision can be appealed in Sullivan County Chancery Court, or ultimately the Tennessee Court of Appeals, according to the release.
  5. If the case is decided in the city’s favor or the owner doesn’t file an appeal, bids are taken for the job by local demolition companies.
  6. If the city ultimately destroys the building, the total costs of demolition would be placed as a lien against the property. If the land is sold, the release says the city could collect its share to satisfy the lien.

“Our city code helps ensure the value of people’s property to increase instead of decreasing and affecting their right of the enjoyment of their property,” Bruner said.

Last fall, the release states that a total of $75,000 was dedicated to demolition, lawn maintenance and window/door boarding by the city.

As to the exact definition of unfit, Kingsport ordinances lay out several conditions that could render a house condemnable by the building official:

  • Defects increasing the hazards of fire, accident or other calamities;
  • Lack of adequate ventilation, light or sanitary facilities;
  • Dilapidation;
  • Disrepair;
  • Structural defects; and
  • Uncleanliness.

If the structure meets those conditions, then it becomes a numbers game. If a building can’t be repaired to a level that satisfies city ordinance for less than half of its worth, the building official orders it to be demolished, condemning it. If it can be, the official orders a repair or improvement.

Bruner said the majority of properties facing dilapidation cases are abandoned with no owner to contact, or the heirs of the previous owner can’t settle on what should be done with the structure. According to Kingsport code, it is illegal to live in or use a condemned property.

Aside from abandoned homes, Bruner said Kingsport’s dilapidation code is sometimes used to enforce landlord standards. If a property is allowed to fall into disrepair and tenants are living in uninhabitable conditions, the building official can order the property repaired or destroyed.

“I’m a firm believer that our property maintenance code is one of the most important codes we have, as a city,” Bruner said in the release.