PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - The city of Philadelphia is "home" to an estimated 15,000 vacant homes, and each one creates problems for the neighbors left behind to deal with the deteriorating mess.
Case in point?
Samantha Gerretz, who sits with FOX 29's Bruce Gordon inside the screened-in gazebo behind her home on the 1900 block of Ruan street in the city's Frankford section.
"My gazebo cost a lot of money and now it's just sitting there, rotting away, because I can't even enjoy it," says Gerretz.
Gerretz says she used to enjoy entertaining in the backyard of the Ruan Street home she shares with her mom and son.
But, she says, that all changed when her next-door neighbor moved out a couple of years ago.
"I like to have people over. I like to have the barbecues for my friends and family but that's all been eliminated. I haven't had no get-togethers so far this summer."
It's easy to see why.
Weeds-- some of them 7 feet tall-- fill the yard next-door and creep over the fence bordering the properties.
There is trash everywhere and hidden in the mess, sits a container of stagnant water filled with mosquito larvae.
"I don't want to bring people here," says Gerretz. "They're all going to get bit up."
Samantha's backyard neighbor's also gone-leaving behind a trash-filled swimming pool and vegetation that overhangs her yard but is entwined in power lines.
"So we are scared to cut," she says. "God forbid we get electrocuted."
The department of Licenses & Inspections will cite homeowners who let their property go, but in many cases their contact address is the very property they just left behind!
"When the city is attempting to hold that owner of accountable and we can't even locate that person," says L&I spokesman Karen Gus's, "it leaves the neighborhood in a very difficult situation and it leaves the city in a very difficult situation."
Gordon called his contacts at City Hall and learned the city has in fact taken the backyard neighbor to court to force a cleanup of the property.
As for the lot next-door?
The city cited the property owner twice last year and Gordon's gotten a promise from the head of the Community Life Improvement Program that they'll have an inspector out within a few days to force yet another cleanup of the property.
Samantha's frustration is growing.
"It's not fair to me or my family."