PALM HARBOR, Fla. — “This place is a mess, there is just junk everywhere,” Christos Kappas exclaimed Tuesday while looking at the home just to the right of his. “Something needs to be done.”
Kappas and his neighbors in Palm Harbor are fed up with squatters and filth. The owner of the home at 1949 Orangeside Drive is in jail, according to Pinellas County records. In her absence, neighbors say squatters have taken over the home and trashed the yard.
Kappas pointed to suitcases, a leaky pipe, shopping carts, broken glass, furniture and mounds of garbage outside the home.
Despite several calls to code enforcement and law enforcement, Kappas says it is taking a very long time to fix the issues.
ABC Action News contacted Pinellas County leaders who say they are aware of the ongoing code enforcement issues on the property and are stepping in. They noted, however, that any cleanup or evictions could take months to make their way through the legal process. The code enforcement issues are scheduled to go before the Local Ordinance Violation Court.
In Florida, a homeowner is often required to go to court to evict squatters.
“The neighbors are scared of the squatters. This is a quiet area. It’s upsetting that it is taking so long to get something done,” Kappas explained.
St. Pete and Clearwater leaders have successfully incorporated new ordinances that allow city leaders to take the owners of dilapidated homes into foreclosure court. Largo is considering a similar ordinance now.
Kappas hopes Pinellas County finds a way to speed up the process. "This can't go on," he said with emotion.