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Nuisance rental property

by Monte Schweizer
(Watseka, Illinois USA)

Visitor Question: I have contacted both the landlord and City Council about a tenant that lives near me. The tenant engages in drug activities, violence in the home, and now violence to a fellow neighbor causing bodily harm. The police have been to this property eight times in two months.

I contacted the Mayor five times in nine months over numerous issues with these neighbors and contacted the property owner to no avail! I keep getting lied to by both parties I've contacted about taking care of evicting the nuisance tenants.

I have received threats from this tenant and still get no remedy! I live in Watseka, Illinois and can't seem to get anyone to take care of this ongoing problem. What can I get done to take care of this and be able to enjoy my property?

Editors Reply: Your description goes well beyond the simple aggravation with a neighbor tenant who leaves property in unsightly condition or hosts loud parties. This sounds like a genuinely dangerous situation, a fact that you seem to appreciate.

In contrast to some people who write to us, you have taken all the right steps. Namely, you complained to the city council and to the mayor, and you also complained directly to the property owner, which is a step that many people seem reluctant to take. Police have been called, whether by you or by others; this is also very important in a situation such as this.

Since Watseka is a smaller city, it may be that the "powers that be" are not taking the most aggressive action since that is somewhat contrary to a rural "live and let live" orientation. However, the violence cannot be allowed to stand; that is not "rural normal," and don't let anyone tell you that it is.

The next thing that might be happening is that the city is just afraid to confront this person, either because they believe the situation is more volatile than they can handle or because they are afraid of legal repercussions.

However, the city is simply making the situation worse by allowing escalating violence.

The only additional step with local authorities that we could recommend is talking with the city's attorney, who should rightfully be concerned about the city's legal exposure, be aware of the eviction process that Illinois law requires, and be able to provide the city with good advice about how to proceed. Often city attorneys carry some real weight with city officials.

Most importantly, you and your neighbors need to get organized, forming a temporary or permanent neighborhood association to deal with this situation and anything else that you find important. You need to do this very quickly. The reason we can strongly recommend this to you is that often city officials become somewhat immune to the same person (you) complaining over and over. They can easily say to themselves that the person complaining is just a crackpot, even when and especially when they are afraid to or reluctant to take the right step.

So you need more people than just you complaining and making a big deal of this.

For tips on how to start a neighborhood association, see the page we link in this paragraph. It is the middle one of a three-part article on the subject. Or buy and download our ebook, which gives even more detail. (The description and table of contents are shown on the Ebooks page of our site, which is shown on the navigation.) In both, we discuss a temporary organization if that is the approach you want to take.

In brief, just your neighbors together for a meeting in someone's home or maybe there is a library, school, or business with a meeting room. A coffee shop might work too. Explain the situation and ask neighbors to band together, even if they do not feel directly impacted by this particular tenant. Promise that you will be there for them if anything similar happens in their particular geography. Then make plans to all go together to a City Council meeting; if there is an opportunity for the public to speak, take the proper steps to be recognized to do so.

You probably don't want to go to the expense and trouble of having T-shirts made, but you could at least figure out if everyone could wear a red shirt, blue shirt, white shirt, or whatever. Yes, it is coat season in Illinois so make sure everyone understands they will need to remove coats.

We don't guarantee that this will work, since small towns often have hidden reasons for protecting someone or ignoring a problem. But since every other quite reasonable step you have taken does not seem to be working, try the tactic of making your cause into a group's cause.

Also it may be worth contacting Chicago media to try to get some recognition for the problem, and certainly contact media in your own and other nearby towns. If you have younger neighbors, get them involved in social media around this topic if you can. Adverse publicity does sometimes get people moving. Heck, you can even use the buttons to get this page reference posted on social media. Good luck to you.

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