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Maitland City Council might force clean-up of derelict property

A DERELICT block in Maitland could become the centre of a court case as Maitland City Council tries to force the landowner to improve the property.

The council has three house and land sites across the local government area that are overgrown and filled with waste.

It has issued orders and penalty notices under the Local Government Act, but received no response.

The landholders have also failed to pay their rates.

Maitland councillors will decide on Tuesday night whether to initiate legal action in a bid to force the landowner to clean up.

The venture could cost between $25,000 and $50,000, according to quotes from two legal firms, and the council would try to recoup the cost if the court ruled in its favour.

A council report has recommended that court action be taken against one landholder, and a report be put before the councillors after the court case has finished to look at the impact on the council’s budget and time.

If councillors support the move, legal action would not be taken against the two other cases until the report was considered.

Mayor of Maitland, Cr Peter Blackmore, said it was ‘‘disappointing’’ that the council had to consider legal action but he thought it was the only way to force the landowners to act.

‘‘If we turn around and say we’ll forget about it, what sort of example are we setting to our community?’’ he said.

‘‘There are a number of cases where no matter what you do some people try to avoid acting at all costs.’’

He urged anyone in financial hardship to talk to council staff about alternative arrangements to pay their rates.

About 150 to 200 people complain to the council about derelict properties each year, but most are resolved within 21 days. A council report said there was a minority of people who either refused to maintain their property, ignored the requests or were unable to act.

Councillor Henry Meskauskas said the council had taken two landholders to court in the past over similar situations, and had to do it again.

He has had a few complaints about derelict properties west of Maitland that ‘‘smell’’ and have ‘‘rats and snakes’’.

‘‘They don’t care about it and it causes a problem to everyone else around them,’’ he said.

‘‘The property is a safety issue and it’s a danger to the people in the house and the neighbours.’’

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