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Living with a derelict

No, I'm not talking about my hubby; it's the house across the driveway from us!

When we purchased our little 1970s "retirement rancher" on the flanks of Roxy Ann in 2010, the house across our flag-lot driveway was for sale.

Prospective buyers (some accompanied by contractors) looked it over and with great pointing and head shaking, passed on it. Cracked concrete and substantial foundation "issues," all too common for houses built in the 1970s on expanding clay soil, meant that serious work and money would be required. But priced at $80K, it seemed plausible that a buyer could justify the expense.

At last it sold. We happily anticipated watching the house undergo the needed improvements and welcoming new neighbors. But we discovered to our dismay that the buyer was not going to do a thing to it but rent it out!

Who would rent such a mess? Slanted floors, failed windows, garage doors cockeyed in their frames, an original 1970s kitchen with broken cabinets and old "harvest gold" appliances, peeling vinyl floors (you get the picture) didn’t seem to deter folks desperate to find a house with cheap rent where dogs were allowed.

We've seen it all in the past six years, from college students who ignored the yard, letting the grass grow knee high, and culminating with a family and 17 dogs. Yes, that’s not an exaggeration. They bred their two big dogs and had 15 puppies. The horrendous poop stench forced us to keep our windows closed for months.

The house has been vacant for several months now. We wonder what is in store for this poor place, the "Rodney Dangerfield" of ranchers ... it has never gotten any respect.

Occasionally a guy in a pickup truck with a trailer hauls away stuff. The last renters left basketball stands and old batteries and lots of dog poop. An erstwhile gardener trimmed a few tree branches and left much of the debris in the driveway for me to haul away. The water is turned off, so what remains of the landscape is looking very stressed or dead.

On the internet, we discovered horror stories from past tenants. We called Medford Code Enforcement when we noticed that the front of the garage was leaning inward about 2 feet. The inspectors said it posed “no immediate danger.” Not so comforting when you live across from it. But if the garage were to collapse, the natural gas line runs right down the side. What could go wrong?

“It could be worse,” my husband points out from time to time. Probably. Being situated on a flag lot and not visible from the street has kept squatters or fire bugs from discovering it so far. We await its fate now, hoping that it will either get repaired or sold to somebody who might actually fix it.

— Kathleen Ashcraft lives in Medford.