.

Neighbors' Frustration Grows Over Boarded Up Home

Village working to find some answers.

Posted July 12, 2011 at 02:37 PM

Kultra Ootsman insists she’s not one of those people.

You know, the type who takes every neighborhood complaint and marches straight to Village Hall demanding answers. But she said she and her Gates Creek West neighbors are at their wits end over an unoccupied neighboring home gutted by fire last year that’s causing havoc on their street with every storm.

Monday’s storm caused the tarp covering the roof to come off and 2 by 4s were thrown around the neighborhood with a long piece of wood piercing the side of Ootsman’s home.

“The home was so poorly boarded up after the fire, now every time it storms, and it doesn’t have to be a bad storm, we get debris all over the neighborhood,” Ootsman said.

The home at 505 Meadowwood Lane was empty last June when it was struck by lightning and heavily damaged by fire. Ootsman said the homeowners were just days from closing on the sale of the home when it was hit.

According to Kendall County Assessor’s records the home is still owned by Earl and Tricia Witte who were the previous residents. Further records show that a foreclosure proceeding on the home was canceled May 16.

All that doesn’t matter much to neighbors like Joni Probst who just wants some answers.

“We can’t live like this anymore,” she said Monday afternoon.

Interim Village Administrator Dwight Baird said there is little the village can do to force the clean-up and repair of the home.

“We’re very limited on what we can do on private property without a court order,” he said. “This is a very slow process.”

A ticket was issued in March to the homeowners for failure to upkeep the home. Baird said it was never paid.

Building & Zoning Manager Patricia Lariviere said another ticket was issued Monday. Lariviere also said she is working with Wells Fargo Bank to discover who is currently responsible for repairs to the home. 

“All that we’re able to do right now is issue fines,” she said. “The village does not have the authority to go in and demolish these homes, unfortunately. … We’re doing everything we can.”

The village does have the ability to put a fence around a damaged home like the one . Baird said that home was unable to be secured and had become a public safety issue.

The Meadowwood Lane home is secure, but the home’s roof was previously covered by the tarp, which was placed on the home last year, Baird said. Baird visited the neighborhood Monday night and talked to residents.

For their part, both Ootsman and Probst said they are considering hiring an attorney to find out what legal recourse they might have. Meanwhile, Probst said despite damage to her home’s siding from Monday’s storm, she won’t be filing another insurance claim.

“I’ve been told that if we file another one we’ll lose our policy,” she said.

Village President Brian LeClercq said he also planned to talk with neighbors.

“I understand it’s very frustrating when the local government can’t do much to help out,” he said. “But we walk a fine line with private property rights.”

Jane Enviere July 12, 2011 at 03:52 PM
That would be "bet". ; )
Rick Jacobsen July 13, 2011 at 11:52 AM
This home owner one of my former customers. I took care of the lawn before and after the fire last year. That fire has devistated them finacially and it saddens me to drive by this house every week to still see it in this condition. I have compassion for both the neighborhood and the homeowners. I hope you all can find a solution for this tragedy. If gone through the proper channels and volunteers are allowed to access the property, my company would gladly donate it's time and recources to help find a solution to this unfortunate situation.
Terra Clemens July 13, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Thank you for all the kind comments from the community. I would gladly help out if we had community help and permission to access the property. In a prior post, he village of oswego told us to contact the homeowners association. Iam dissapointed with the email that came to me as I had just met with the insurance adjusters re our 4th deductible....On this same day as people were out looking at the damage...this was my responce from the HOA. (about a 3 ft inflatable baby pool just outside our property line) There needs to be some more productivity like getting a cean up crew, mowing the 4 feet of grass...and picking up all the nails.... "Dear Clemens - We were sad to hear/see about all the damage to your cars and property from the Witte House. We also have had brought to out attn: that you have a above ground swiming pool in the backyard. The Covenants - Use Restrictions = Page 14, Section #3 Swimming Pools - No above ground swimming pools. The Pool needs to be removed from the property in the next 10 days and no later than July 22, 2011. If it is not removed we will start assessing fines of $50.00 per day as long as the pool remains on the property. If you have any questions please contact the Board at this email. Respectively, Gates Creek West HOA Board of Directors"
LSJ July 13, 2011 at 01:54 PM
I bet you were livid to receive such! Home owners associations just seem to be more of a pain than help! I really feel for you! If you ever get any approval for fixing it yourself, please message me and I would be happy to help.
patricia hish July 13, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Terra, Terrible! Contact Lisa Parker at channel 5. If this goes public I'm 99% sure that something will get done. This is unacceptable! What about the children in the neighborhood? This is a danger to them. Whom ever is holding that title to the house should be the one responsible. It seems as though it would have been much easier for all of you had that house burned to the ground. Want action, go public.
Logansdad July 13, 2011 at 04:58 PM
Why is the village not getting involved if it is a safety issue. If there is debris frlying from this abandanoned house, the village should be able to do something. When pieces of a skyscrapper fall onto public sidewalks, the city of Chicago forces the building owner to do something. This situation is no different.
Richard R July 19, 2011 at 05:29 AM
Classic case of hey Association here is a eye-sore and a violation of village codes and even HOA codes. But dear home owner thanks for giving us your address,and complainig about said property on your block, but your in violation of use restrictions, so your a bad person and need to act accordingly, if not you will be fined ,and fined on a daily basis. Yep seems about right to me. Now if the HOA was this quick to act on you, what are they doing, if anything about the eye-sore in your neighborhood. Mostly nothing, unless they have an above-ground pool, then that would be a different story. lol
Richard R July 19, 2011 at 05:33 AM
Oh and I found this on the HOA 's website. Everyone should send them picture of the house. Since they say you can send pictures so why not. lol * If you are a member of the Gates Creek West Community and would like to add your photos to this collection, please email the board: board@gatescreekwestoswego.com http://gatescreekwestoswego.com/
kultra oostman July 19, 2011 at 02:29 PM
I would like to personally thank you all for your care and concern. The response to this has been overwhelming and the kindness has left me humbled. I would like to give you an update. The city did come by and remove the rest of the hanging debris. They actually took off the whole roof. It is still an eyesore but at least the danger of the left over debris has been removed.
LSJ July 19, 2011 at 03:00 PM
That is good news! My neighborhood is by yours and I have told so many people about your story. Good job finally getting them to act on a dangerous situation. I am sure if you keep it up, they will find a solution that is less of an eyesore. Are their holes where birds or other wild life might "move in?" Yikes! I do feel for you!
Jeannie LaMarre July 19, 2011 at 03:39 PM
This is such a sad situation. The house on Northgate is a duplex, and it seems the home that was connected would be unliveable as well, although I do not know if that is the case. However, that house was never even boarded up or tarped. (There was yellow tape). It has been snowed in and rained on, and the belongings blown all over. You can see the beds and furniture in the upstairs rooms as well as the things in the garage.Curious kids were in and out until a flimsy fence was finally put up. What an unfortunate and frustrating situation. Good luck with getting help from "those higher up".
Rick Jacobsen July 20, 2011 at 05:53 PM
We will be donating our services for the rest of this mowing season. I know this doesnt solve the bigger issue, but the grass situation will be under control for the time being.
Steven Jack (Editor) July 20, 2011 at 06:11 PM
Where's the "like" button here? Good one, Rick!
Bil July 21, 2011 at 02:14 PM
While this is an unfortunate situation and the house is very much an eyesore in our neighborhood, no one has the legal right to take matters into their own hands. I sympathize with Joni for having to live right next door to this situation for such a long time. Patricia makes some very good points. As frustrating as it is, the house and yard are not public domain. Anything that is done to the house or yard is called “illegal trespassing”. Period! Do any of you think it would be acceptable for someone to alter your private property or start boarding up your house? Only the homeowner or mortgage holder legally has that right. Clearly the homeowners have walked away from their responsibilities of the house. As frustrating as the legal process is, it is what it is. The only authority the HOA has is to enforce the covenants that we were all knowledgeable of when we moved here. What's the point of the HOA fining someone for not keeping their grass cut when clearly they aren’t going to pay the fines.
Bil July 21, 2011 at 02:14 PM
The process of the mortgage holder foreclosing on the house is a very lengthy one and can sometimes take years. Anytime there is a mortgage, the homeowner is required to provide insurance on the home. If they don't provide it, the lender would be required to step in and provide it. While it is highly unethical, the mortgage holder could apply the insurance money to pay down the outstanding loan. One would assume that the mortgage holder would want to either repair the home for resale or demolish it to sell the land to re-coup their money. However, the legal process for them to foreclosure and do so is a very long one also. I highly doubt that the mortgage holder is just sitting on this. They want their money.
Bil July 21, 2011 at 02:16 PM
I do think it is a great idea to contact some of the local new stations to draw attention to this matter, but the best recourse would be to find out who is responsible. According to the Oswego Patch article, the foreclosure proceedings against the Witte’s were cancelled on May 16th. If that’s the case, they still own the home and the foreclosure process starts all over. With all the legalities surrounding this matter, it also appears the village is legally restricted as well as to what they can do. (Copied from the original article)
Bil July 21, 2011 at 02:16 PM
According to Kendall County Assessor’s records the home is still owned by Earl and Tricia Witte who were the previous residents. Further records show that a foreclosure proceeding on the home was canceled May 16. Interim Village Administrator Dwight Baird said there is little the village can do to force the clean-up and repair of the home. “We’re very limited on what we can do on private property without a court order,” he said. “This is a very slow process.” A ticket was issued in March to the homeowners for failure to upkeep the home. Baird said it was never paid. Building & Zoning Manager Patricia Lariviere said another ticket was issued Monday. Lariviere also said she is working with Wells Fargo Bank to discover who is currently responsible for repairs to the home. “All that we’re able to do right now is issue fines,” she said. “The village does not have the authority to go in and demolish these homes, unfortunately. … We’re doing everything we can.”
Bil July 21, 2011 at 02:16 PM
The matter of abandoned houses was to be discussed at last night’s village board meeting. Was anyone able to attend to see what the village had to say? While I think it’s a noble offer that Jacobsen Lawn Service is planning to mow the lot for the rest of the year, it’s still illegal trespassing to do so. Do you really want to put yourself in that position? Plus why would the homeowner or mortgage holder be inclined to maintain the property if the community is doing it for them.
Jane Enviere July 21, 2011 at 05:02 PM
I worried about that when I saw the generous offer to cut the grass, too. I think the only solution is probably long, drawn out and expensive. But that sometimes happens. : (
Steven Jack (Editor) July 21, 2011 at 07:14 PM
Bill this matter was discussed at the Village Board meeting Monday night. Not a lot of new information was brought to light, but the village's attorney did reveal that the insurance company is Farmers Insurance and the mortgage holder is Wells Fargo. Village President Brian LeClercq then said numerous and repeated phone calls from concerned neighbors may be what it takes to spur those companies into action on this home.
Bil July 21, 2011 at 07:32 PM
@Steven Jack. Thanks for the update. I'll see if I can find out who we need to start calling at Wells Fargo.
kultra oostman July 21, 2011 at 07:35 PM
Steve, I did attend that meeting. I was unable stay for the entirety due to an emergency. It is extremely frustrating and we have no assitance or support as it seems from the HOA. Our HOA was quick to complain about our neighbors pool that was not even on their property. Soon after the city also received a complaint that the pool was infested with mosquitoes and that we were trespassing on private property. The city did come out and inspect the "pool" and trespassing situation. The pool is within city guidelines and we were advised to refill it and enjoy it. As far as trespassing goes, who is there to police. We are not damaging the property and they applauded us for mowing to help with the bugs.
Rick Jacobsen July 21, 2011 at 08:02 PM
Illegal tresspasing for my services is a non issue. I have been granted access to the property from the homeowners.
patricia hish July 21, 2011 at 08:35 PM
Just an FYI, we owned rental property in Elmhurst. Our rental was 3 doors down from the house from haedes. The homeowners never kept up on the homeowners ins. and when the house burned half way down, they walked away. Neighbors from the entire subdivision worked days on end to try and take care of the mess they left. The house was over run with mice and raccoons so a few men started trapping and killing (mice) what they could.The smell was beyond bad, you couldn't go outside or open windows. We lost our renters, couldn't blame them. Then one day we were served papers, we were being sued( criminal trespass just to start) It was the homeowners, the mortgage company, and an animal rights group for killing the pests in the home (go figure I work animal rescue). Long story short it cost us in excess of $20,000. ( attorney fees) time in court and we were not able to rent the home. This entire process took 6 yrs. Try to get credit or a mortgage when you have this on your record, doesn't happen. It was a nightmare. Mr. Jacobsen you're a very kind man, but make sure you get this in writing from the true homeowner of the property. I would hate to see you have to go through what we did. If someone would have told me then that we would be sued for taking care of an eyesore, I would have said there's no way. Lesson learned!
Bil July 21, 2011 at 08:50 PM
I have contacted Wells Fargo Mortgage and explained the situation and gave them the property address. The information I gave them regarding the abandoned home, neighborhood damage and safety issues has been e-mailed to their Property Preservation department. I left my name and number as a contact so I'll let you know If I get any response. I'll try Farmer's Insurance next to see if anything can be done through them.
Steven Jack (Editor) July 21, 2011 at 09:02 PM
Very good, Bil. Please keep us updated!
kultra oostman July 21, 2011 at 09:52 PM
I just met with the representative from the Property Preservation Department hired out by Wells Fargo. She inspects the property monthly and reports back. From what I gather there is someone who should be mowing ever 2 weeks.
Rick Jacobsen July 22, 2011 at 01:43 AM
I have it documented Patricia, thank you for the kind words I appreciate it.
Richard R July 22, 2011 at 11:00 AM
It seems that someone was getting paid to maintain the lawn, but then Farmers may not have been paying the person in a timely matter, so they stopped cutting. If this is the case I would not blame them. Insurance companies, sometimes take a long time processing payments to companies that are hired to keep the property up. As for Wells Fargo, they could care less about this property. The company has just had a 85 million civil penalty Wednesday levied against them for steering some borrowers in to higher sub-prime loans. This maybe the case of why the foreclosure was stopped back on May 16th. This maybe also be why it is sitting now and the insurance has not paid out on the house, since there maybe more money owed then what the current insurance was to cover. Or they may have made a payment and that only covered most of the out standing loan and there is nothing left to repair the place. Nice job Wells Fargo. See link below http://www.bizjournals.com/triad/news/2011/07/21/wells-fargo-agrees-to-pay-85m-for.html Also after this announcement Wells Fargo posted the made 3.95 billion. But they can not fix this place.
Kathy July 22, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Just found this Tribune article online - thought it would be interesting reading: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-englewood-banks-20110722,0,1390151.story

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something