WYLAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Imagine walking out your front door every day and seeing an abandoned property with piled up trash, illegal drug use and unwelcome squatters.

That’s the reality for one Wylam family who reached out to CBS 42 for help.

Roy and La’Crystal Smith turned to CBS 42 for help after the property next to their home was abandoned for years.

Roy Smith and his family have called their residence and farmland on Wylam’s Toledo Street home for decades. However, in recent years, they’ve had unwelcome next-door neighbors. The Smiths said squatters have taken over the abandoned property next door and are leaving trash piling up in the area.

Additionally, Roy said the illegal drug use he’s seen at the property has him worried about his animal’s health.

“We got horses running freely,” Roy said. “They don’t know what’s contaminated and what’s toxic. So we are really concerned because it runs all down the road and down into the property behind us.” 

The Smiths aren’t only concerned for the value of their property, but the neighborhood as a whole.

The Smiths said they called 311 for help but have not heard back. They tried talking to city leaders at a community meeting but turned to CBS 42 for help when they felt like they were getting nowhere.

“It’s important to note that the city of Birmingham cannot come on to a piece of property and just tear it down,” said Birmingham City Councilor Hunter Williams.

Williams said he understands their frustration though.

“The quality of life in these neighborhoods is drastically impacted by just one house that is not maintained, has the ability to have squatters and has the ability to have illegal activity occurring, which can change the entire dynamic of the neighborhood,” Williams said.

According to Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office, the owner of the property died and local leaders were working to find their next of kin. As a result, the house is tied up in legal limbo.

“They need to figure out a way to get those guys out, and demo the property, and clear out,” Roy said.

Leaders said dealing with an abandoned property is not that simple.

The Birmingham Land Bank Authority can put liens on delinquent property, but that can take up to five years.

Another solution could be the Drug Nuisance Abatement Act. With the possibility of illegal drug activity happening at the property, the city could take over the property eventually.

“The city has been out one time before and just weeks, not even a month later, it’s already reaccumulated,” La’Crystal said.

Williams said sometimes the best option is simply calling 911.

“It’s always best to call the police out,” Williams said. “That’s beneficial because it can not only immediately solve the problem of the squatter, but it also leaves a paper trail, and it’s helpful for the city of Birmingham if we are pursuing that property as part of the Drug Nuisance Act.”

The Smiths hope that media attention can propel this case forward.

“I think this here, this here, we will definitely see some results behind it,” La’Crystal said. “We just started at the top of the chain of command.”

The Birmingham City Council will consider declaring the property a public nuisance on March 7 and could later decide to clean up the property at the owner’s expense. If that’s not paid, a lien will be placed on the property.

Additionally, an environmental code violation will be sent to the property owner on Friday.

The Wylam Neighborhood Association is hosting a cleanup day on March 11. It will be held at Wylam Park and start at 8 a.m.

If you have a concern in your neighborhood you would like us to investigate, email us at YourVoice@cbs42.com.