Hurricane Sandy victim charged for lawn care at abandoned home

MYSTIC ISLAND, N.J. - December 30, 2013

Some homeowners are getting bills from landscapers for work done on empty houses.

Geri DeMedici-Lentz of Little Egg Harbor is ticked at the township after receiving a $200 bill for lawn mowing at her abandoned house on West Calabreeze Way in Mystic Island.

Displaced and financially strapped after Sandy, she says she was overwhelmed fighting with her insurance company and trying to find a place to live. Cutting the grass was not at the top of her list of things to do.

So as it did with dozens of other homeowners, the township intervened and charged her for it.

"I think it's crazy. You're supposed to be helping your residents come back home and that's not helping us by charging us to clean up our yards," DeMedici-Lentz said.

Little Egg Harbor officials say township crews have had to do everything from mowing to weed whacking to boarding up windows and doors at about 70 houses over the last year.

And while there's sympathy for those who are struggling, they say messy and overgrown properties can't be left to deteriorate.

Assistant Township Administrator Mike Fromosky says the cleanup this year has cost about $19,000.

"We can sympathize with them and their plight, but again it's not right for the rest of the town to pay to maintain that property," Fromosky said.

Mystic Island residents, however, feel differently.

"It's a travesty. It's horrible that they are trying to get money from the people that are already suffering," Janis Gerasch said.

"It was six months before we could get a dime of the money to even clean up and now anything they can charge us for, it seems like they are ready to jump on us," Hans Gerasch said.

Geri Demedici-Lentz has not paid the bill. Unable to afford repairs or raising the house, she was forced to turn her home and that cleanup bill over to a bank.

Copyright © 2024 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.