Former home of 126 cats could go on market

LANSING TOWNSHIP, MICH. - A home in the Groesbeck neighborhood where officials removed over 126 cats two years ago remains condemned and unsafe for occupancy, despite efforts by a local realtor to sell it. 

On Friday, nearly two weeks after a "for sale" sign was spotted in the home's front yard, Township Supervisor Diontrae Hayes expressed concerns about the safety of those who may have entered the dwelling. 

"The home is still condemned," said Hayes, who wasn't aware of the for-sale sign. "It hasn't been clear for any walk-throughs until a final inspection is completed. Nobody should be in that home touring it." 

As of Friday morning, the for-sale sign was no longer on the property. The home also couldn't be found current online real estate listings.

A previous listing for the home on Trulia.com, updated June 6, said the asking price for the four-bedroom house was $137,900. The website indicated that as of that day, the listing had been up for 28 days. It didn't mention the home being unsafe for occupancy or that over 100 cats, including about 25 found deceased, had been removed. 

About 80 of the cats found alive were later euthanized because of health problems.

John Boles, real estate broker for the home, said Friday morning that the for-sale sign was removed this month because the home "wasn't quite ready" to go on the market. Boles said he wants to reassure prospective buyers who may have concerns about the dwelling's safety that his company will do what's needed to make it safe.

On Friday, there was a Lansing Township building permit, which had been issued last November, for "remodel/restoration" work by the door of the house.

Boles said the township "has complete inspection authority" and would have to give clearance before a sale.

Boles said the home could go on the market "within the next week." 

"It was a rental unit, and it obviously got out of proportion, " Boles said of the removal of cats at the home. His firm was not involved with the rental. "We're just trying to get it back to service. We're just the listing agents."

Ingham County property records show the home is owned by Melvetta Owens, with tax bills sent to a San Diego, California address. Attempts to reach Owens on Friday weren't successful. 

The home's taxable value last year, according to records, was listed at $27,798 compared to $55,431 in 2015. 

Hayes said Friday that township officials planned to visit the property that afternoon to see what work had been done after it was condemned two years ago. 

A State Journal reporter noticed the for-sale sign on June 1. At the time, a sticker was posted by the home's door that read "Danger: This building is deemed unsafe for occupancy."

That sticker was still there Friday morning. It cites a township ordinance and appears to be the same one posted by officials after the cats were removed in June 2015. 

After Hayes told the reporter about Friday's inspection, Boles declined to comment on how the township's condemnation of the home would affect any potential sale. Boles is president of Lansing's All 'N 1 Realty Inc.

Messages left Friday with the Greater Lansing Association of Realtors and Michigan Realtors Association to get details about any protocol real estate agents must follow to sell homes that have faced extreme hardship and health risks weren't returned. 

The Ingham County Health Department hasn't been involved with the property since 2015 and likely won't get involved again unless the township needs assistance, said Amanda Darche, a department spokesperson. 

Darche said Lansing Township is expected to handle a final inspection to determine if the home is safe for occupancy and can be sold.

“Certainly if someone reached out to us again we would likely become involved in some capacity, Darche said. 

After the 126 cats were removed from the home in June 2015, a mother and daughter who lived there were charged with animal cruelty and eventually pleaded no contest.

Lannie Price and Amanda Price were sentenced last fall in Ingham Circuit Court by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina to probation and a year in jail. The jail time was suspended on the condition they pay restitution, get mental health assessments and avoid having pets. 

About $20,000 of the restitution was expected to go to Ingham County Animal Control to reimburse expenses related to the case. The remaining $40,000 was expected to go to the owner of the house to help make it habitable again. 

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© 2017 Lansing State Journal


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