A Columbus man who died of hypothermia Jan. 14 was squatting at the 13th Avenue North apartment where he was discovered.
Hozzie Hawthorne was never a renter at 1515 13th Ave. N., according to property owner Tom Hatcher. Utilities to the house, which is divided into two apartments, had been cut in April 2008.
Fred Williams, Hawthorne”s son, believes his father began living at the apartment around April 2008, but wasn”t certain.
Bob Oaks, of Associated Realty, managed the property for Hatcher through most of 2010. He discovered late in the year Hawthorne was squatting in the apartment and ordered him to leave. Hawthorne asked if he could remain on the premises until his December Social Security check arrived and Oaks agreed.
Oaks had already informed Hatcher he would cease managing the property effective at the beginning of the year and never checked back to see if Hawthorne vacated the apartment.
The International Property Maintenance Code of 2006 mandates any inhabited home must be capable of maintaining a minimum heat of 68 degrees. City Code Enforcement Officer Derrick Nash says the code applies even in the case of squatters.
“You have to get the minimal requirements for the person to occupy the dwelling or, pretty much, they need to go immediately,” said Nash.
However, the city can”t punish a landlord for ignoring the ordinance unless it knows of the violation as it”s happening.
Hatcher, who owns approximately 30 rental properties, said it”s impossible to keep track of all unrented properties to keep squatters out.
“People break in. You get rid of one and they come back. I”m not driving by (every property) every day,” he said.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.
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