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Now Uninhabitable, Longtime Rogers Park Problem Home Goes To Housing Court

By Linze Rice | April 22, 2016 3:41pm | Updated on April 25, 2016 8:58am
 A house in the 1300 block of West Chase Avenue has been a site of contention for neighbors, police and city officials, who say the property has become dangerous and uninhabitable.
A house in the 1300 block of West Chase Avenue has been a site of contention for neighbors, police and city officials, who say the property has become dangerous and uninhabitable.
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ROGERS PARK — A home that police have been called to dozens of times in recent years because of fights and other disturbances has continued to see problems in recent weeks — including a fire, more injuries, and break-ins.

After an inspection by the city Tuesday, officials at the Department of Buildings deemed the house in the 1300 block of West Chase Avenue uninhabitable and immediately vacated and boarded up the home.

An emergency vacate order for the house from Buildings Commissioner Judith Frydland found "the interior of this residence is unfit for human habitation by reasons of unsafe and unsanitary conditions."

An inspection found no heat or hot water, toilets full of human feces, stairs nearing collapse, and multiple areas of "junk" and improper wiring that could cause fires.

Mimi Simon, a spokeswoman for the buildings department, said the home was immediately referred the home to the city's law department for further action.

Neighbors at a condo building next door, which sits feet away from the problem property, said they've been trying to get the city to take action for years.

Last year the home's owner was hospitalized after someone living at the home hit him over the head with a radio during an argument, and in January 2015 the body of a person who died of a drug overdose was removed from the house.

"Why does it seem that the residents of Chase Avenue have had to do the heavy lifting to get this home addressed?" said Mike Schoen, president of the condo association for the property next door to the home.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th), said he shared residents' "anger and frustration," and said the home owner "is not being the best neighbor," but until recent code violations, his office and the police had no legal grounds to shut the house down.

"That's not happened yet, and not for a lack of trying," Moore said. "The police have conducted at least two undercover investigations and they've not been able to come up with enough evidence to make an arrest on the property."

In late March a fire broke out in the home's attic, causing firefighters to cut a hole in the roof, and pour in water to stop the fire. The owner put a tarp over the hole.

Then, on Tuesday, a fight broke out in the front yard of the home, and neighbors said a woman they knew as a resident was taken from the house, bleeding, by emergency responders.

The next day, the home was inspected by the city and boarded up.

However, since then neighbors said they've seen people go into the house more than once, including at least one occasion that led to a police scuffle and arrest.

"The police were amazing ... actually I have never seen so many CPD officers at one scene in my 10 years in the city," Schoen said. "You could hear the suspect verbally and physically fighting with the police before they were able to hand cuff and haul him out of the property. 

"Absolutely crazy and dangerous for the officers to have to bust into a condemned building without electricity and lights."

Though the house has been referred to the city's Law Department, Moore said if the owner makes repairs to the home, he'll be allowed to move back in. If he fails to make the necessary repairs, Moore said the owner will continue to be fined, or can also sell the house to someone who will make the needed fixes.

If problems persist, the city could take over the property if necessary, Moore said.

In the meantime, Moore said he understands the neighbors' concerns, but that calling 911 and keeping his office informed was the best way to document complaints that can later help make a case against the house in the future. In one 12-month stretch ending in May 2015, there were 58 calls to 911 regarding the home, officials said last year.

Schoen said the issues with the house's owner is a microcosm of problems happening in the city at large.

"Where's the help for people with mental health issues, like the individual who has now been arrested several times at this property?" Schoen said. "It has put the community, law enforcement and the individual at great risk. The system is failing him."

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