Bryan Cohen Apr. 4, 2013, 7:50pm

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a lawsuit Wednesday against an out-of-state landlord whose homes fell into disrepair and were later demolished by the city of Springfield.

DeWine and the city of Springfield jointly filed a lawsuit against the Lawndale, California-based Johncar Investments, the owner of three Springfield properties. Johncar Investments was cited for code violations for several years and allegedly never took action to address the violations or demolish the properties. Johncar Investments took no action upon receiving notice the properties required demolition, and the city assumed responsibility for the demolitions.

"The Ohio attorney general's office has designated significant resources from the National Mortgage Settlement to combat the blight of abandoned houses across Ohio," DeWine said. "However, not all abandoned properties are the result of the housing crisis or banking practices. There are occasionally egregious cases where negligent property owners have contributed to this problem and should be held liable for these demolition costs, instead of their neighbors and fellow taxpayers. This filing represents three such egregious cases."

The lawsuit seeks to collect $13,000 in debt incurred by the city of Springfield from demolishing the three properties, as well as interest and attorney costs.

DeWine has worked with local jurisdictions to collect demolition costs from negligent owners of property as part of the Demolition Grant Program. The program, which was created in February 2012, helps to improve and stabilize communities by removing abandoned and blighted homes with funds from the National Mortgage Settlement.

Conservative estimates put the number of abandoned and vacant properties in Ohio that require immediate demolition at 100,000.

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