A Long Island resident is suing after his house was demolished while he was out of town recovering from knee surgery.
Phil Williams, 69, lived in his home in West Hempstead, New York, until December 2014 when he went to Florida for surgery. When he came back in summer, his home had been demolished. All that remained was an empty lot.
"My wife and I live there," Williams told CBS News. "Six children were raised there."
According to CBS News, the residence was demolished as part of an effort to remove "zombie houses." Williams had paid his bills before leaving for Florida.
"He [Williams] was paying his mortgage," Bradley Siegel, Williams' attorney, told CBS News. "There was no foreclosure — it was not a zombie house."
In addition to the loss of his home, all of Williams' possessions, such as furniture and wedding rings, are also gone. “I don’t know that we could get any of the stuff back,” Williams said.
The town of Hempstead told NBC that the house presented an imminent danger to the public. Under a local law, Chapter 90, the town can demolish dangerous buildings.
The town said it notified Williams through registered letters starting October 2014. Williams said he did not receive mail while recovering from surgery.
Neighbors said they saw notices outside the house about the upcoming demolition.
“It looked as if the house had been abandoned,” George Manders, a neighbor who has lived across the street for decades, told NBC News. “The town had notices on the door.”
“The house was abandoned, that’s the way it looked,” one woman told CBS News.
"It looked like it could fall down at any time," Manders commented.
"It needed some repair, I'm not going to dance around that," Williams admitted. "But it was certainly not in the shape where it was dangerous."
“They went too far — this house should not have been demolished, and they went too fast," Bradley Siegel, Williams’ attorney, told CBS News. “They had all the signs to know that someone was living here.”
The town's actions have been condemned on social media, reports Daily Mail.
"Did they even bother to look if there was lien a foreclosure, civil case pending?" asked one user. "How hard is it to investigate the status of the owner?"