Stratford Man Says Absentee Neighbor Ruining His Property

Stratford Man Says Absentee Neighbor Ruining His Property

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STRATFORD, N.J. -

"I cut my bushes at least 12 inches off the ground all the way around," says Richard Ellis. From the road, you can see his home on Winding Way in Stratford is immaculate. It's just as manicured in the back.

"The grass is always cut," he points out. The problem isn't his home. He says it's this one next door. 

"The property next door attracts skunks, possums, raccoons, but mostly rats. There's also trash, litter and old water sitting there from the pool," describes Ellis. He says his neighbor hasn't been in the home for about a year. Someone shows up to cut the grass, but that's it.

"It's disgusting," says Ellis, as he looks at the yard from his own back yard. Ellis, who is 82-years-old, retired and cares for his wife who is disabled and legally blind, says he's spent the past year pleading with borough officials to help, but his pleas hasn't gotten anywhere.

Borough Clerk John Keenan says that efforts to contact the owner, whom they believe is in Florida with family, have failed.

"No matter what we address the mail to for this property, it's not forwarded to another address and it's returned undeliverable by the Post Office, so we have absentee landlords." Keenan says. He also says that real estate tax payments are often late, but have gotten paid.

Stratford Mayor John Gentless claims the borough's hands are tied.

"The only thing we can hope for now is that if she falls behind on her real estate taxes that we can foreclose and do what we have to do to get the property," said Gentless.

Ellis says that's not good enough and he and his wife may be forced out of their home of 51 years.

"We had an attorney tell us that his suggestion is not to pay taxes anymore, put it in escrow and walk out of the house and leave it for the borough to take."

The mayor says the next step is to talk with the borough solicitor to see what else they can do and to possibly get the Camden County Health Department involved.

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