A local landlord was fined after a judge found him responsible on eight different code violations for a rental property in Porterdale, where, among other things, was infested with cockroaches and the doors would not latch.
Although he attempted to deny ownership, Judge Kimberly Degonia found Curtis Jackson was the owner of Nine Spruce Street when the citations were written in October 2011.
A tenant who lived in the home owned by Jackson at the time called the city to complain of the living conditions in the home where she and her three children resided. The city's building inspector investigated the complaints and found that the gas heat was inoperable (the family was using small space heaters and the temperature in the home was 49 degrees), there were broken windows, the front door had no working handle and could not be locked, outlets and wires were exposed, the home was infested with cockroaches and piles of bat feces and raw sewage were discharged into the backyard. The tenant claimed that she propped the front door closed with a stick and that vermin came in and out of the back door which had a large gap between the bottom of the door and the floor.
On November 2, 2011, the inspector listed 13 things that required immediate action by Jackson and added eight items that required attention in order to be in compliance with state and local codes, according to court documents. Jackson was given 10 days to comply in order to avoid being cited. He did not comply and the citations were issued to him.
Jackson claimed he never owned the home but according to evidence given during court; he inherited the property when his parents died, and his name was listed on the tax registry as the owner. His attorney also claimed he was not given adequate notice; however, the city was able to provide evidence that he and an inspector met several times to discuss repairs to the property and that a plan of action had been made. The motion to quash the entire case was subsequently denied.
Jackson's third defense was that he was being selectively prosecuted. He brought with him photos of several other properties in the city in need of repair, the complaint was denied as well.
"Jackson presented absolutely no evidence to support his allegation of selective prosecution," read the documents. "He didn't know how many citations had been issued to other landowners. He didn't know whether the landowners of the properties he had photographed had been issued citations. He hadn't even bothered to find out who the landowners were."
The court concluded by saying "cases like Defendant Jackson's are not new. Landowners who become landlords often face a formidable challenge: they repair rundown properties in order to attract responsible tenants only to find that the new tenant causes even greater damage. A landlord may spend more in repairs then he recovers in rent. However, landlords have remedies. They may require high security deposits, evict tenants who damage property, and pursue civil lawsuits to recover the costs of repair to damaged property. A landowner does not have the option of allowing a property to collapse in disrepair while still collecting rent from mothers and children who are huddled amidst vermin behind doors that don't lock."
Jackson was fined a total of $1,448 to be paid to the city.