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Problem of the naughty house on River Drive may be solved

FARGO -- For the past few months, whenever Nancy Greenberg rode her bike or drove with her children down River Drive South, they would always look for a derelict house on the corner.

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FARGO -- For the past few months, whenever Nancy Greenberg rode her bike or drove with her children down River Drive South, they would always look for a derelict house on the corner.

"Our kids are 7 and 9 right now," she said Wednesday, March 16. "Every single time we ride by that house, there's another collective gasp. 'Mom, that naughty word's still there!' Our daughter's like, 'Mom, that house still has the F-bomb written across the window. That's terrible!' "

The crude words were written in red spray paint on the windows, one letter for each pane, from the inside, which suggests there was a break-in. A sign posted by a property management firm, presumably hired by the mortgage holder, said the house was last inspected in December 2014 to ensure no one is living in it.

Greenberg, who lives about three blocks north, said she first noticed the graffiti six months ago. Since she doesn't live in the immediate area, she said she figured nearby homeowners would've complained to the city. She filed a complaint herself in February when nothing was done.

John Mrozla, a city home inspector, told The Forum on Thursday, March 17, that the complaints appear to have fallen through the cracks with both the maintenance company and the city. But he said he has contacted the company, and it has asked its contractors to immediately take care of the problem.

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The brick rambler at 3807 River Drive S. appears to have been empty for more than a year, according to Greenberg.

State court and county records do not indicate that the house is in foreclosure, but there are signs the house was abandoned by the owner, who now lives in Arizona. A year ago, Green Tree Servicing, a St. Paul firm specializing in aggressive collections tactics, took over payment of property taxes from the longtime mortgage holder. Green Tree, which was fined by federal regulators, has since merged with another firm to form DiTech.

Greenberg said it doesn't look like anyone keeps an eye on the house. When the grass grew 4 feet tall around June, her husband called the number on the front door, which went to an Austin, Texas-based property management firm called Field Assets Services. He was just told the firm has inspectors who check its houses, she said.

The lawn wasn't mowed until fall, she said.

Mrozla said that in his experience, this situation seems to be an outlier. There are quite a few foreclosed homes in town and the maintenance companies usually do a good job, he said.

The home inspector said Wednesday that he vaguely remembers a complaint about a house on River Drive that may have been transferred to another department.

On Thursday, after he called Field Assets, he received an email that directed an employee to "send someone out immediately to remove or bid removal of this graffiti that is visible from the street." The email indicated the firm had earlier had an inspector at the home in late February, around the time Greenberg complained to the city, and asked a local contractor to remove the graffiti, but the contractor hadn't done so.

Greenberg said she wished the mortgage holder would just sell the house. Her neighborhood has seen many homes bought out by the city because they're flood prone, she said, and some of those homeowners might have jumped at the chance to stay.

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