City of Janesville, police get tougher with problem landlords
Violations in Janesville
-- 333 N. High St.
-- 304 S. High St.
-- 427 W. Racine St.
-- 1315 Myra Ave.
-- 612 S. Chatham St.
-- 306 Cherry St.
-- 159 Linn St.
-- 713 Johnson
-- 519 Park Ave.
-- 468 N. Pearl St.
-- 413 Lincoln St.
-- 1518 W. Memorial Drive
-- 324 Linn St.
-- 317 Linn St.
-- 326 Cherry St.
Warnings in Janesville
-- 413 S. Jackson St.
-- 300 E. Racine St.
-- 318 W. Racine St.
-- 107 S. Locust St.
-- 221 N. Franklin St.
The city of Janesville has served landlord Richard Donahue with the most orders ever issued to correct violations under the chronic nuisance ordinance.
Violation orders were issued on 20 properties that Donahue owns.
It is the first time the neighborhood services department has worked with the police department on a joint effort, said Jennifer Petruzzello, neighborhood services director.
"This is by far the largest effort under the chronic nuisance ordinance," she said.
Nuisance issues can be either police issues or housing and property maintenance issues. This case involves both.
The chronic nuisance ordinance allows either the police chief or the neighborhood services department to compel a landlord to attend a meeting to develop a maintenance plan for nuisance issues on his or her property.
If violations continue, the city can charge the owner for the cost of police or neighborhood services.
The council adopted the ordinance in 2008 to give staff more power to deal with chronic illegal activity and housing problems.
The city's meeting with Donahue is scheduled for Wednesday, May 30.
Petruzzello said a goal in her department this year is to review properties with habitual violations and attempt to correct those through the chronic nuisance ordinance.
"In this situation, neighborhood services looked at the number of violations that we had from a property maintenance and housing standpoint and took those with the largest number of violations and shared that with the police department to develop a comprehensive listing," Petruzzello said.
"He's at the top of the list for property maintenance in terms of violations."
Fifteen of Donahue's properties were determined to be chronic nuisance properties, meaning each property had four or more violations. Another five properties are at the threshold with three violations.
For instance, Donahue has 34 violations listed at a home at 324 Linn St. The city has ordered Donahue to install carbon monoxide detectors, repair a rotting porch, fasten loose handrails, fix peeling paint, replace damaged floor tiles, fix rotting floors and repair a bathroom sink leaking water into a cabinet below.
The police department has responded to the properties many times, but the exact number was not available Friday.
The violations were issued in a one-year period during which neighborhood services issued more than 70 orders to correct for housing and property maintenance violations.
Donahue told The Gazette he believes city property inspectors are "probably targeting my properties," adding they "did a sweep of the Fourth Ward, they wrote up every single property (he owns) on Linn Street."
Donahue claims his property at 324 Linn St. has been in need of tender loving care for 30 years, but the city hasn't done much in the past to prompt repairs there. Donahue says as soon as he bought the place a year ago, he started getting violation notices from the city.
"I don't know who got eager down there and sent out 20 letters," he said.
Donahue said he's painted and cleaned up around the outside of the property but acknowledged he has not fixed the rotten porch and floors. He said the property is vacant.
"Nobody's occupying that one," he said. "I don't rent them out like that."
Donahue is one of the top participants in the city's Section 8 funding, in which federal money is given to the city to assist low-income people with their rent.
Four of his 15 homes are Section 8 homes, and two of the five in the warning category are Section 8.
For that program, property must be inspected yearly. Orders issued for Section 8 are not included in the number listed above. Petruzzello said Donahue is usually quick to correct those violations.
Donahue owns more than 100 properties and recently bought more, Petruzzello said.
"We're always working to address health and safety issues citywide, but over the last three years, we've really stepped up our proactive enforcement in the central city area to ensure that people have a safe living environment," she said.
Property maintenance is just one piece of the city's neighborhood rehabilitation effort, Petruzzello said. Others include buying and demolishing deteriorated property, low-interest loans and lead removal.
"We try to link those components together to have the greatest impact," she said.
Donahue said he has a "working relationship" with city officials, and that he's willing to fix problems at his property.
"I'm certainly looking forward to working with them (May 30) to solve the outstanding concerns to everyone's satisfaction."
Petruzzello said the city has issued orders to Donahue in the past, with mixed results.
As of May 15, Donahue has 15 outstanding violations on property he owns.
The city will try to develop an abatement plan, she said. If it sees progress, the payments won't kick in.
"If we don't get a response, we have that option," she said.