Wednesday
July 23, 2014

‘Messy Neighbor’ Gets Jail Time

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‘Messy Neighbor’ Gets Jail Time

A 53-year-old Mount Pleasant, S.C., woman was released this week after spending six days in jail for failing to pay a $480 city fine for having a messy yard. 

The woman, Linda Ruggles, says she didn’t have the money to pay the fine or fix her messy yard problem. Since the recession, she says her photography business has struggled, and she is sinking every dime into paying her mortgage and back taxes to avoid foreclosure for the home she’s owned for 15 years. Meanwhile, her yard has become a neighborhood eyesore: Piles of shingles have sat on Ruggles’ rooftop for three years (because she says she’s been unable to pay for the installation) and her driveway has been covered with scrap metal. Some neighbors have also complained that Ruggles has been using toilet bowls as planters in her yard or other “ugly” lawn ornaments.

Neighbors eventually complained to city officials saying that Ruggles’ unsightly yard was bringing down their property values. Ruggles was cited in December 2010 for a “clean lot violation” and fined $480. If she failed to pay, she’d be sent to jail.  

“It didn’t change the situation,” Ruggles told The Post and Courier about her being sent to jail because of her yard. “I just don’t think being handcuffed, photographed, and fingerprinted is really a behavior-modification tool to keep me from being poor.”

City officials insist they tried to help Ruggles avoid jail, but they say she ignored court warnings. 

Since getting out of jail this week, Ruggles says several residents in the community have offered to help her, including a contractor who offered to shingle her leaking roof for free, landscapers to clean up her untidy yard, and a real estate group about helping her with home repairs.

Source: “Woman Jailed for Messy Yard Gets Helping Hands,” The Post and Courier (Jan. 13, 2012)

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