Pat O'Brien was a little surprised, but not shocked to learn yesterday that the house on Ross Street that he moved into Monday was the subject of a $841,500 fine by Batavia City Court for a long string of alleged code violations.
Before O'Brien bought the home, the city determined the responsible party for the property was HSBC Bank. The bank was allegedly issued a summons to appear in court to answer to the code violation charges, but reportedly, no representative of HSBC ever appeared.
When defendants fail to appear in court as directed, judges have the discretion to find the party guilty and after another demand to appear in court, in the defendant's absence, the judge can issue a sentence.
That's what Justice Durin Rogers did Friday against HSBC and another entity responsible for a local property that has allegedly failed to appear on the matter.
That defendant is Kaja Holdings 2, LLC, held responsible for 21 Hutchins St., Batavia. Kaja was found guilty in absentia of 1,092 violations of the city's property maintenance code.
HSBC was found guilty of 3,336 violations.
Rob Sherman, corporate communications for HSBC, did not respond to a voicemail left yesterday requesting comment.
Kaja Holdings did not respond to a request for comment.
City Manager Jason Molino said the judgments against HSBC and Kaja are part of the city's ongoing, aggressive efforts to deal with so-called "zombie" homes -- homes that have been left abandoned and vacant for extended periods of time following a foreclosure.
"We going to push aggressively with non-responsive individuals with an interest in properties in hopes of getting people's attention and start getting them to respond," Molino said.
Molino said the city was only notified on Monday that the Ross Street property had been transferred to the new owners.
"We're pleased with the outcome," Molino said. "It's exactly what we like to see."
Whether HSBC will still be on the hook for the $841,500 fine, Molino said he didn't know. That will be up to Justice Rogers to decide.
As for Pat O'Brien, he said he's thrilled with the house and happy to become a Batavia resident.
He took a job in Henrietta in the fall and found the house on the house listed for sale on the Fannie Mae Web site. He worked with local real estate agent Chuck Flynn to complete the purchase.
He's had a new gas line installed (it was cut off at the street), new electrical installed and the city turned the water on two days ago, making the house livable once again.
"Even though it looks a little bit bad on the outside, surprisingly, it's not that bad on the inside," O'Brien said. "Structurally it's really sound."
O'Brien said he liked Batavia because it's a small, quaint community that seems to have a lot going for it. Workers who have come over to his house have had good things to say about Batavia, he said, that it's a community on the rise.
And commuting to Henrietta, he said, is no big deal.
"Back in Jersey, I actually had a longer commute, so the commute between Batavia and Henrietta doesn't bother me," he said. "It's all Thruway. It's under 45 minutes, which I don't think is that bad."
Molino said O'Brien will be given time to get the house in good shape once again, which O'Brien said he intends to do.
"If you look at the house, it's actually not as bad as you think because the top third has all been aluminum sided and so I only have to repaint the lower two-thirds of the home, so like I said, I think by the end of the summer it should be a gem on the street," O'Brien said.
Our news partner WBTA AM/FM contributed to this story.
21 Hutchins St., which is vacant and condemned.