Troubleshooters: Is a property maintenance crusader keeping up her own property?

Donna Purvis is co-sponsoring an ordinance amendment that would require random code enforcement inspections at rental properties and create a registry to ensure
Updated: Sep. 27, 2022 at 5:55 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Metro Council member Donna Purvis has been on a property maintenance mission.

“The grass is so tall,” she said about one part of town in a budget hearing. “The grass is at least three feet tall and it’s just terrible looking.”

Louisville doesn’t do property maintenance inspections unless a complaint is filed. Purvis is co-sponsoring an ordinance amendment that would require random code enforcement inspections at rental properties and create a registry to ensure properties are up to code.

“It helps us to maintain or helps us to stay involved when the property’s kept up if there’s any negligence to the property,” Purvis said. “What we are looking for is people to comply with the law. It has gone on too long.”

The idea had support and criticism.

“I bet there’s not one person in this committee that lives in a home that’s up to 2022 code,” one landlord said at a meeting. “It does not exist.”

“You won’t have any problems if you keep your properties up,” Purvis said. “But if you don’t want to keep your property up, you’re the ones that’s gonna have problems.”

So when WAVE was contacted with a complaint that Purvis herself didn’t keep her own property up, we checked it out.

Sure enough, at the end of a long row of homes on Southwestern Parkway where people kept their properties up, an entirely different story sat on the corner.

Chapter 156 of the Louisville property maintenance code says “all premises shall be maintained free from weeds or plant growth in excess of ten inches.” At Purvis’s property at 657 Southwestern Parkway, it was videotaped as way higher, two feet high and more.

The property code says “gates shall be maintained such that the gate will positively close and latch.” The gate on Purvis’ property wasn’t even attached and sitting off to the side against the fence.

According to code, “peeling, flaking and chipping paint shall be eliminated from any surface.” Purvis’ property had peeling paint in places.

Code says, “exterior walls shall be free from holes, breaks, and loose or rotting materials.” Purvis’ property appeared to be out of compliance there too.

According to code, “metal awnings... and overhang extensions... shall be protected from the elements and against decay and rust by the periodic application of a weather coating material such as paint.” The outer edge of the front porch overhang is uncovered and rusted.

The code says, “every exterior stairway shall be maintained structurally sound.” The stairway outside the house was busted up and part of it was gone.

According to code, “roof drains, gutters and downspouts shall be maintained in good repair.” The roof gutter on the house was hanging down separated from the roof.

“There’s so many cases of property neglect,” Purvis said.

Before her scheduled Love Walk event, I asked Purvis if we could talk about this issue of property neglect with property codes and photos in my hand.

“Somebody reached out to us with a complaint actually about one of your properties,” I said. “About it having multiple codes violations on it, 657 Southwestern Parkway.”

“I don’t have any code violations on my property,” Purvis said.

“Not written violations, but apparent right now,” I said.

“I don’t have any violations,” she said. “If so, they would have reached out to me and any time I’ve been notified by codes enforcement, I’ve always responded.”

“No, codes enforcement hasn’t been there,” I said. “But I have, and I took video and lot of pictures of it and looked up in codes enforcement here and there are multiple what appear to be infractions. It’s a mess. Weeds are two feet tall, gutter hanging down, one of the gates is off, one of the steps is missing. Like a lot of problems there.”

“I’m not renting the property,” Purvis said. “That’s a business property.”

“But don’t you think you should be setting an example,” I said. “Especially co-sponsoring this legislation?”

“You know what, it would be rude of me to say right now I’m going to stop the interview,” Purvis said. “But if you came here under false pretenses to interview me about what we’re doing in the community, and then you’re gonna shift the narrative.”

“No, I never told you I was interviewing you about the Love Walk,” I said.

“I’m very disappointed in you, because had I known that, I would not have talked to you,” Purvis said. “I’m not here to discuss that.”

“You don’t think these are fair questions?” I asked.

“You’re not fair, and you can air this,” she said. “But no, I’m here on a Love Walk. Right now, what you’re about to see is me turn around and walk away, because if you’re not here to talk about the Love Walk, I have nothing else to say. If you want to shift the narrative, that’s fine. I don’t know if you’re gonna get another Emmy off of this, I don’t know John.”

“I don’t care about any of that, but I need to ask you these questions,” I said.

At that point, Purvis walked away to her Love Walk. But she wasn’t done yet.

“And tell WAVE don’t contact me anymore for anything,” she said. “You’re a recovering alcoholic.”

The next day I drove past her property and spotted a difference already. The grass was mowed, and the gate was fixed.

The Metro Council Majority Caucus reached out to me the night before this report was due to air and asked me to touch base with Donna Purvis.

Purvis said by phone she has made several repairs since that interview. She said she has been busy the past nine months.

“Sometimes I sacrifice things I need to do in order to serve my constituents,” she said. “I am not above the law.”

Purvis also said she had a codes inspector check out the property and there were no more problems.

The following letter was received from Louisville Forward communications manager Caitlin Bowling just before the report aired:

“Codes and Regulations received a call from Councilwoman Purvis on 9/15/2022 asking if someone could go by a vacant home she owns at 657 Southwestern Parkway and let her know if there are any existing property maintenance violations that she should address. A courtesy inspection was conducted that afternoon. When the inspector arrived, the grass has just been cut, and the inspector pointed out several items that would be considered in violation of the property maintenance code if we received a service request for the property, including the following:

  • The front porch columns had some damage and needed to be repaired.
  • The front downspout on the south side was disconnected at the bottom.
  • Wooden surfaces in various locations needed to be protected (some areas had metal trim work which was missing). A piece of trim was coming loose on the rear.
  • A low hanging phone/cable line in the rear yard needed to be removed or raised.
  • There was a missing address number on the rear.
  • Gutter were coming loose on the and the north side.
  • Finish removing weeds from the fence line.

Since no egregious violations were found and no official service request had been received, no property maintenance case was created. We will be following up to ensure the items were corrected.”