City of Fresno has now given more power to the code enforcement department

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The city now has the power to pursue criminal charges if the owners don't clean up or clear out. (KFSN)

A strong message to the owners of some blighted Fresno homes. The city now has the power to pursue criminal charges if the owners don't clean up or clear out.

From accused slumlords to homeowners facing dozens of violations, code enforcers in Fresno said they're overwhelmed by blighted properties.

"Over and over and over-- you can't get the property owner to do anything. They've all gone to the hearing office and the hearing officer has upheld them for the most part. But you can't get things done," said Del Estabrooke, Parking & Code Enforcement Manager.

Many of those abandoned homes have caught fire because of vagrants. In one case five people trapped in an abandoned Central Fresno home died last December.

City Manager Bruce Rudd said the problem lies with the lack of power and code enforcers who can't get homeowners to fix, or destroy, run down properties.

"Buildings have gone through a hearing fines have been assessed or reduced... But the hearing officer has not compelled the owner to do anything which means the city has to start all over again. >

But an emergency measure, effective immediately, could compel landlords to cooperate. The city council said the code enforcement department now has extra authority to make homeowners fix their violations.

"If someone blows off the hearing officer and fails to do it, and has no good excuse, then they are going to have an additional fine and possibly be pursued for the equivalent of contempt of court," said Douglas Sloan, city attorney.

The city said once the code department hands down a citation people have 30 days to make repairs or show a good-faith effort to fix them.

And they said if the homeowners work with the city they could even offer them an extension.
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