Punta Gorda votes to not tear down ‘Rat House,’ exploring other options

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The future of a rat-infested home in Punta Gorda remains up in the air after a city council vote on Wednesday.

The votes comes nearly a decade after the homeowner abandoned the house, leaving the city to decide whether they will demolish it or fix it up.

Council members and the mayor felt that knocking down the house was not worth the cost. Instead, the city voted to get the home appraised before deciding what to do next.

“I’m not inclined to spend any more money on the house, we’ve spent a lot of money on this house, trying to get it to the point where we are right now,” said Punta Gorda Mayor Lynn Matthews.

‘The Rat House’ on Belaire Court in Punta Gorda. (Credit: WINK News)

Neighbors along Belaire Court call the home ‘The Rat House’ after the rodents took over the vacant home.

WINK News first visited the Punta Gorda neighborhood in 2019 and saw the rats firsthand.

People in the area say the rats are still here so they want the city to tear the house down.

“Nobody has been in there for years. There’s no air conditioning, there’s holes in the roofs. How could you possibly redo that house?” said neighbor Linda Moore.

Punta Gorda City Council members debated what to do with the house during its meeting Wednesday morning. The city said it took measures to get rid of the rats, and while neighbors disagree, the city says the rats are gone.

“I would put it for sale as is and go from there,” said Councilwoman Melissa Lockhart.

Not everyone on the city council agrees the house is worth saving.

“I would suggest that we just knock it down and clean it up and sell it as a vacant lot,” said Councilman Mark Kuharski.

Kuharski worries someone would buy the house and turn it into an Airbnb. “The worst possible thing that could happen, I think, is that somebody buys us as a fire sale, slaps a coat of paint on it, and then puts another Airbnb in the neighborhood.”

Neighbors living near the house share that fear.

“This is like a residential area. We don’t need Airbnbs all over the place. But I really think they should knock it down and then sell it, the land. And then somebody can come in and build a really nice house here,” said Moore.

Moore said she’s not happy with the city council’s decision to get an appraisal on the property and then decide what to do.

“So it’s just gonna sit here. And that’s what’s ridiculous. I mean, it’s just been sitting here and sitting here and sitting here,” said Moore. “I thought they wanted to knock it down. I thought that was what most of them really wanted to do.”

“It’s our obligation to sell it I don’t think it’s our obligation to see what’s going to be the future of that property,” said Lockhart.

Punta Gorda City Council will revisit the issue of ‘The Rat House’ at next week’s meeting when they expect the home’s appraisal to be complete.

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