Independent Coalition for Our Neighborhoods

City Legal interpretation of Chronic Nuisance Ordinance hamstrings Bel-Aire cleanup

At City Council’s Committee of the Whole last night, aldermen and attendees were told the chronic nuisance ordinance only applies to specific units of a multi-unit residential housing property.

Pattern of Renting to Problem Tenants

The result is that if the landlord evicts a resident whose actions caused a police report under the ordinance, the count of violations for that unit starts all over again.  Eligible police reports are tracked by unit, not by the property as a whole.  In addition, City of Springfield corporation counsel said a judge would not be willing to board an entire property for problems with a single unit.  That might make sense – until you step back from that single unit and see that there are over 600 police reports in the past 2 years for the Bel-Aire, indicating a patten of allowing problem residents to rent rooms at the Bel-Aire.

2 Years to Foreclosure

ICON supports efforts to address the Bel-Aire and other problem properties united as a community: with police, housing inspectors, county health inspectors, city legal, city leadership and neighborhood leaders in a full-court press to fight neglectful absentee landlords.  Applying fines to the maximum allowed under the ordinance is a viable strategy, but only if it’s actually used.  City Legal says it takes about 2 years to get a problem landlord to foreclosure.  The ordinance was passed June 2012, so we’re now at 2 years and counting.

Hold Slumlords Accountable

The city needs to get serious about holding accountable slumlords who are all about profit and don’t mind taking police and other city resources away from the rest of the city.  They often don’t live here to suffer the crime, fear, expense and reduced property values.

Residents Take Direct Legal Action

What other options do we have?  One option being used by Enos Park uses a state statute that allows a resident living within 1200 feet of a property in violation of a local or state ordinance to take direct legal action.  They’ve had some success with this tactic, and apparently it’s not an onerous process.  Even if a neighborhood association is strapped for cash, my guess is that a fund-raiser to go after the local crack house might be pretty successful.

Bake sale, anyone?