‘At some point, use your teeth’: Aldermen ask city officials how to help renters address landlord complaints
QUINCY — Several speakers during the public forum at Monday’s Quincy City Council meeting talked about issues such as gas leaks, holes in the ceilings and a lack of response from landlords in the homes they are renting.
Alderman John Mast (R-5) then asked Chuck Bevelheimer, director of planning and development, what the city’s next steps were to help renters at 401 Cherry and 1135 State.
“Can we find out if there’s eviction proceedings in places or not?” Mast asked. When Bevelheimer said he wasn’t aware of any, Mast replied, “Can we move forward with issuing whatever the next course of action would be, whether it’s some type of fine or a placard on the property?”
Bevelheimer and Corporation Counsel Bruce Alford explained that a citation must first be issued to the landlord. If repairs aren’t made after a second inspection, a ticket is then served and a court date is set. If the city were to prevail in court, the landlord would be fined and asked to bring the property to minimum code.
Mast asked for an estimated timeframe. Bevelheimer said it could take months.
Mast then asked if the gas leaks were life-safety issues and what happens if they were.
Alford said if the city’s inspection department feels the issue is severe enough, the residence can be declared uninhabitable, and the residents must be out of the property. Alford said Ameren will turn the gas off until the homeowner makes repairs.
Fire Chief Bernie Vahlkamp said a water heater in one of the residences was “red tagged” and the gas was turned off for that appliance.
Bevelheimer explained that once a citation is issued, a judge may give the landlord time to fix the issue.
“It’s really purely up to the judge,” he said.
“As far as the city’s control at this point, as far as the inspection department’s control, it’s in the court system, and it’s going to be up between the court system and the landlord,” Jeff Bergman, R-2, said.
Ben Uzelac (D-7) noted the owner of both properties in question was the same. The city’s GIS maps show the owner is Brute investments, LLC. The Secretary of State’s website shows the agent for that entity is Brian Hendrian.
A frustrated Rev. Carl Terry told aldermen during the public forum portion of the meeting that people living in houses with gas leaks is “like a city hazard.”
“I don’t know if this is the right forum for it, but I’m asking you all to get on it, because I like living here,” Terry said. “The city is only as strong as your weakest link, and it seems to be housing right now. If a gas leak was next to your house, what would you do?”
“The landlord’s not taking care of the gas leak, and we needed to call the fire department and to call Ameren, because they will take care of it,” Quincy Mayor Mike Troup said. “That’s exactly what happened in that case. They found a bigger problem, and they’re going to have to come back.”
“I understand the landlord thing, and there’s only so much that government can do,” Terry replied. “I get all of that. But at some point, use your teeth. If you’re bite him, it’ll hurt.”
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