6098 Belmont Ave.

Address: 6098 Belmont Ave., College HillOwners: Sharon and Bruce HowarthYear Built: 1902Value: $60,700 in 2001, according to the Hamilton County Auditor's OfficeComments: The owner of t

Jymi Bolden

6098 Belmont Ave.

Address: 6098 Belmont Ave., College Hill

Owners: Sharon and Bruce Howarth

Year Built: 1902

Value: $60,700 in 2001, according to the Hamilton County Auditor's Office

Comments: The owner of this house, Sharon Howarth, is a missionary in Alabama. It was her home for 14 years, one she rehabbed and took pride in. When she started preparing it for sale by working on upgrades, she says, she became the victim of predatory lending. Howarth set out to refinance her mortgage for $80,000, but says she ended up owing about $97,000.

"We were defrauded so badly that we had to stop all work on the property," she says. "I worked really hard on that house. It was the first house that I owned. I used to have people stop their car and say, 'I love this house.' "

Howarth says she has been waiting to settle litigation with the bank that bought the institution that made her loan.

"They're pretending that we're just mortgage bozos," she says.

Howarth says she has made no demands for cash from the bank. She says she has even offered to surrender the house; she just wants her credit repaired.

People have offered to buy the house for the past two years, but the outstanding mortgage makes it too costly, Howarth says. The house has twice been advertised as a foreclosure and almost taken to sheriff's auction, according to Howarth.

"By doing so they attracted a lot of attention to the building and its vacancy," she says.

Work on a porch enclosure was started without permits, according to Sean Minihan, an inspector with the city of Cincinnati Department of Buildings and Inspections. The city has ordered the building barricaded and ordered the owners to obtain a vacant building maintenance license. The city has cut the grass in the past, but the owners have cut the grass as well. Minihan says the grass is getting to the point where it needs to be cut again.

He says he checks the building every 30 days. The last time he visited, the back door was opened and he ordered it barricaded.

BLIGHT OF THE WEEK is an effort to highlight the problem of abandoned buildings — and who's responsible for them.

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