Del City demolition policy under fire

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DEL CITY, Okla. — Del City continues to crack down on dilapidated structures.

However, area landlords believe they are being unfairly targeted.

Landlord Rod McLaren owns 11 properties in Del City which he leases to tenants.

Earlier this month, one of McLaren’s properties, 3125 Del Rancho Dr., caught fire.

According to firefighters, the tenant set it on fire after he found out he was going to be evicted.

The property is overgrown and filthy from the previous tenant but the damage from the fire is minimal.

So McLaren was shocked to see that the city had posted an official demolition notice just one day after the fire.

McLaren had plans to remodel the home and rent to a new tenant.

McLaren said the home is worth approximately $80,000 and he believes the fire damage can be repaired for just a few thousand dollars.

“I will not let my houses run down. I do not want to drag a neighborhood down,” McLaren said.

However, McLaren is frustrated because of the demolition order and a letter from the city of Del City that states all repairs made to the home will have to pass current “new construction” code.

“I think they need to be more reasonable to allow owners take care of the repairs on a house,” McLaren said. “I don’t think they should be so restrictive as to make me use a licensed general contractor.” 

According to the Director of Code Enforcement with the City of Del City, Tom Leatherbee, repairs made to a structure need to pass a minimal safety inspection but do not need to meet “new construction” code.

However, as for that demolition order, Leatherbee said formal demolition orders are now standard after a structure fire.

“When the time limit and threat of demolition is issued, it tends to make the insurance companies move a little faster,” Leatherbee said. “We like our houses in our neighborhoods. We want them fixed up. Our goal is not demolition but to always, to work with property owners and make sure a property gets fixed up so it’s safe and livable and a credit to the neighborhood.”

McLaren is also concerned because he would like to be his own general contractor but is not currently bonded for $50,000, as is required to be a general contractor in Del City.

Del City officials said all contractors and subcontractors who work on a property have to be licensed by the state and by the City of Del City.

McLaren said, “Del City has been doing a lot of condemning on a lot of houses. I think they’re targeting landlords, pure and simple.”

City officials tell us their ordinances are similar to other municipalities but were strengthened a few years ago to curb neighborhood blight.

“We have a serious problem in a lot of our neighborhoods with burned out structures that just sit vacant for years so we instituted this policy to provide a time limit,” Leatherbee said.

McLaren was scheduled for an inspection with city code enforcement Wednesday afternoon.


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