Wharton declares war on blight, files 138 lawsuits - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Wharton declares war on blight, files 138 lawsuits

By Jamel Major - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis Mayor A C Wharton declared war against blight Tuesday, appearing in civil court to file 138 lawsuits under the Neighborhood Preservation Act.

"It's time for this to stop," he said. "It will stop.  It's not a question of whether we're going to sue you, but when we're going to sue you."

Wharton is suing owners of neglected and abandoned property in Memphis.  

"You don't have to be a designer or someone who is expert in knowing codes to see that things like this should not be allowed to exist in America's 18th and 19th largest city," Wharton said.

The city is asking the court to order the properties to be demolished or for the owners to give up the titles to the homes.  The city plans to seek monetary damages for people who allow their properties to fall into disrepair.

"They're going to have to lawyer up every time we sue," Wharton said. "They're going to have to pay costs, and eventually folks will learn, 'Either I better tear it down or I ought to come into compliance.'"

Wharton said the strategy will be used against lenders not maintaining foreclosed properties and investors who buy foreclosed homes and do not maintain them.

"This isn't about kicking a man or woman when he or she is down," he said. "This is about folks who have the ability to clean up these properties."

Wharton said Tuesday's lawsuits will be the "first wave" in what will start as a two year civil litigation effort to reduce and remove blight across the city of Memphis.

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