Woman goes to jail over messy yard
South Carolina town comes to homeowner's aid after she is locked up for six days for failing to pay a $480 fine. Neighbors argue that she had plenty of time to clean up and didn't.
Neighbors have come to the aid of a South Carolina woman who spent six days in jail because of her messy yard.
Linda Ruggles, a 53-year-old photographer in Mount Pleasant, S.C., near Charleston, said she couldn't install the shingles stacked on her roof or keep up her lawn after the recession scuttled her photography business. She sold blood plasma, worked part-time at a supermarket and collected scrap metal in her driveway to pay back taxes and save her ranch home from foreclosure, she told The Post and Courier in Charleston.
In her view, she's being persecuted because she is poor.
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"I feel like they want to make an example out of me," she told the newspaper as she sat in jail. "This should be an embarrassment for the town of Mount Pleasant. And it should be an embarrassment for my neighbors who called the code enforcement officer, because no one offered to help me -- no one."
After Ruggles was jailed for failure to pay the $480 fine, residents came to her aid, including a contractor who said he would fix her leaky roof for free and landscapers who offered to clean up her yard.
“It’s all about giving back,” landscaper Corey Ireland told the newspaper about his decision to help Ruggles, who is going to photograph his upcoming wedding. “She’s having a hard time and needs some help. Hopefully, someday, if I ever need help, someone will be there to help me, too.”
City officials said they went out of their way to help Ruggles, but she failed to comply with the city ordinances and didn't show up for court dates.
"The town bent over backward for her," code enforcement officer Mark Sargeant told the newspaper. "We did everything we could to accommodate her, but she didn't reciprocate."
Her neighbors complained to code enforcement authorities more than a year ago, asking that Ruggles be required to clean up her property. The loose shingles could become missiles if a hurricane blew through, and her unsightly property was dragging down their property values, they said.
"This is not something that just cropped up," next-door neighbor Marty Vermillion told the newspaper. "This has been going on for years. This person had multiple chances to avoid all of this. ... Offers of help have been rejected and rejected. It's affecting our property values, and that's not right or fair."
So easy for everyone to sit back and make judgments. As usual, this story leaves many questions unanswered and no one reading it really knows what actually happened on either side. Instead of declaring this woman to be lazy, one might consider that she was very depressed. With everything she was trying to deal with financially, plus being socially isolated (apparently), she was probably overwhelmed and emotionally and physically exhausted. This happens to many people who are struggling financially ("poor" people) and everyone is so quick to judge them as "lazy." There are lazy people out there for sure, but sometimes people who are faced with so much adversity just feel defeated and depressed. They could use a helping hand from others to pull them back up and make them feel they have a reason to care again.
I agree that some people are too picky about other people's property, but I was wondering...she couldn't manage to get the singles OFF the roof - how did she manage to get them ON there in the first place? That's not how they're normally delivered, at least not in my experience (the roofer has to tote them up).
The code enforcement here in Elkhart has been zeroing in on me. My yard is clean and when he said I needed to paint the garage I did. When he said my garage roof needed replaced I did. But when he said the ground underneath the pine needed cleaned I had enough. The neighbor had a 6x6 trash square with an entertainment center, chairs, and several trash bags had he had to have seen it when he went thru the alley to look at my garage. I called the city department and was suppose to have a meeting with him it never happened. But I have not had any letters either. Some people have power go to their head.
Because she's poor ???
Cleaning is FREE !
Just get up off that couch and get busy.
Associations are ridiculous and I think the people in them are the ones who love to stick their noses in others business.
I'm not advocating having a junk yard for your property but c'mon, It's getting out of hand how **** people are getting.
Affecting property values is a lame excuse just to get the city's attention. Scrubby hedges, some dandelions and a dead branch doesn't affect squat.
Maybe this lady didn't care, But I'm thinking she could have been embarrassed and that's why she declined help and it snowballed from there.
She had more things to worry about unlike her neighbors due to the effect of the economy.
After reading some of the comments and the article, I have this to say. Where I live in NC - we help each other. Volunteering in one way or another is common. When Irene came through we all helped each other clear our yards of debris, cut trees, and find shingles that had blown off. If she was offered help from her neighbors, she should have taken it, if they didn't offer but the city did (with a price) I can see her not accepting. I also agree that if she couldn't install the shinges, she should have gone up and gotten them down a few at a time until they were gone. I know she can't carry a bundle all at once. She also could have gotten a local teenager that needed prom pictures taken to do it. The barter system works great - just like the landscaper that did her yard will now have a wedding photographer. As for doing her yardwork, I had 3 different yardsale lawnmowers that cost me $10 before I could afford to buy a nice new one. You can handle your yard. If you had scrap metal in your driveway, you could store it in your back yard. It's not polite to make the rest of the neigborhood look bad. Having said that - I hate neighborhoods that can tell you what to do on your property, that's why I chose one that doesn't have those type of HOA, covenant rules.
Also, in my experience the reason some "poor" peoples homes or property are messy is due to laziness. Not all, but some. In times where jobs are available and they still don't work (lazy) they don't keep up their homes (lazy).
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.