Bay County code enforcement officials cracking down on hurricane damaged homes

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It's been one year since Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle and damage to property is still easy to see. Bay County Code Enforcement is working to make it a little harder to spot.

Bay County code enforcement is working to get property owners to clean up hurricane ravaged homes. (WJHG/WECP)

While many people have cleaned up their homes since Hurricane Michael, some have just left them to rot.

"It's obvious there's not been any progress on this property," said Kathi Ashman, Bay County Code Enforcement Manager.

Earlier this year Code Enforcement officials took an inventory of homes damaged 45 percent or more. They say they're checking about 1,000 homes for signs of improvement.

"If there is not, then we are posting those as unsafe/unfit structures," said Ashman.

Friday is the first day the county deemed homes unfit or unsafe.

Then code enforcement will follow up with letters asking property owners to contact them.

But most importantly, they want them to know they sympathize with their situation.

"We want to help people because we understand that mortgage, insurance, and sometimes finding a contractor is still very difficult," said Ashman.

So even if your property is severally damaged, there's still time before action will be taken. Code enforcement officials want to stress to the public that they'll help you develop plan so you can fix your property.

"There are different programs in the community that individuals maybe qualified for," said Ashman.

Some of those can include Habitat for Humanity, Samaritan's Purse, and the State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program.

Once a property owner receives a letter after their home is deemed unsafe or unfit, code enforcement will return in 30 days to see if any progress has been made. That's if property owners don't contact them first.

If no action is taken, a notice to appear before a magistrate will be issued.

But more than anything, code enforcement officials want to work with property owners to come up with a plan.

Beginning in January, property owners who don't comply with notices will be referred to a magistrate.

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