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Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011 05:25 am

Neighborhood sues owners of abandoned house

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This house at 1144 North Sixth Street has a history of code violations dating to 1998. Now, it’s in the legal crosshairs of neighborhood activists.

Fed up with blight, activists in Enos Park are taking the law into their own hands.

The Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association is suing the owners of a home at 1144 N. Sixth St., hoping for an injunction to either force the owners to bring the boarded-up house into compliance with city code or put the property into receivership.

The house at 1144 N. Sixth is the crown jewel in the boarded-up holdings of Paul Ayappa, Rex Speeks and Jahanshir Abbas, who together own at least three other properties in Springfield, all worth less than the two-story home valued at $28,260, according to county property records.

City records show code violations dating back to 1998 for weeds, excessive garbage, vacant-and-open-to-trespassing and debris in the yard.

“Enough’s enough,” says Steve Combs, president of the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association.

If the owners cannot or will not fix the home, then the association wants a receiver to decide if it is feasible to fix or demolish, said Don Hanrahan, attorney for the association. Any resident within 1,200 feet of a nuisance property can sue the owner under the state statute that Enos Park is using, but such lawsuits are rare, Hanrahan said.

“I don’t know why it’s not done more often,” Hanrahan said. “Enos Park’s pretty serious about this stuff.”

The association sued the owner of a different home in 2008, obtaining a preliminary injunction and a settlement aimed at stopping suspected crime and drug activity. The home’s owner agreed to stop renting the property and put it up for sale, and a sale went through earlier this year, Combs said.

Jananshir said that he and the other owners of the North Third Street house are aware of the lawsuit, but he declined comment.

“I’d rather not discuss anything,” Jananshir said. “This is a legal matter.”

Since 2003, the City of Springfield has sued Jananshir and his two partners four times for code violations at other homes they own, according to Sangamon County Circuit Court records. One of the homes, at 2009 E. Jackson, was demolished after the city went to court. Other lawsuits have not resulted in permanent solutions.

In 2005, the city sued after the three men ignored orders to fix a home at 1832 S. 14th St. where the garage was falling down, windows and doors were broken and the interior was damaged. A judge entered an order, assessing fines and costs of $915. Three years later, the city was back in court, winning a default order and a judgment of $1,190 after the owners failed to fix balconies, porches, decks and a chimney while allowing weeds and grass to grow unchecked. Today, the house is boarded up, with dead tree branches piled on the front porch.

The city in 2006 sued the owners over code violations at a home at 1154 N. Third St. that was deemed “dangerous and unsafe to the public,” with structural damage to the foundation, chimneys and roof. After the city sued, the defendants signed an agreement, promising to fix the problems by Feb. 6, 2008. If the owners missed the deadline, the agreement gave the city the right to demolish the home without further notice to the owners or the court.

In 2009, the city moved for dismissal, saying that the city “has received full satisfaction of its claim.” But the house still stands, still boarded up, with vines creeping up its sides.

It’s not clear why the city moved for dismissal.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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