Demolition Issue Complicated by Death, Judgment

A demolition hearing Monday on the property at 1017 E. Fort Wayne St. was complicated because the property owner died in 2014, the property is up for sheriff’s sale May 24 and there was a $33,000 judgment against it by a third mortgage company.
Hearing Officer Larry Clifford reset another hearing for it at 1:30 p.m. May 16 when he will likely order the property demolished.
None of the respondents for the property attended Monday’s meeting. They included the late Robert Hubert Jr., Worcester, Mass.; Danielle Wasmer/Service Link, a mortgage company, Westminster, Colo.; and Seterus, a loan service company, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Zannie Powell, City of Warsaw Building Department administrative assistant, told  Clifford that proofs of service from Hubert were returned but Service Link and Seterus did receive their notifications. Clifford noted the notifications came back from the Postal Service as “addressee unknown.”
Ray Behling, Code Enforcement, said he was told by a neighbor that Hubert was deceased and the property was being taken of by his brother in Massachusetts and that the brothers were living together. It was later determined after the meeting that it was Hubert’s son, not brother.
“But there’s a lot more to this story,” Powell said.
Behling said when they first got the complaint on the property they went and did an inspection on the exterior of it and did not have access to the inside. They talked to the complainant, a neighbor, who gave them more information and photos of the property were taken. Through the mortgage company, he said they began tracking people down for information on the property, which led them to Michigan and then to Colorado.
On another visit to the property, Behling said the house was wide open and they were able to get inside for further inspection.
“So it’s vacant?” Clifford asked, to which Behling agreed, noting it’s secured now and there are padlocks on the house, which it made it appear that someone put those on it so they could access the house as needed. Based on the neighbor’s information, he said the house was last fully occupied about two years ago.
“We posted on the house that it was unsafe,” Behling said, adding that he checks it every few days as they don’t want anyone inside.
Asked by Clifford if the property’s taxes were paid, Behling said they were being paid by the mortgage company but there was a sewer lien against it.
He said the house was on the market several months ago and someone offered about $28,000 for it, but that offer was declined.
When Clifford asked who the realtor for the property was, Behling said no one seemed to know and the mortgage company was being “real vague” with him.
When Behling first contacted the mortgage company, he was told they were going to look into the repairs. After the interior inspection, he said he sent the mortgage company a letter stating they recommended demolishing the property and the mortgage company didn’t respond. Before Monday’s hearing, he said he tried twice to get in touch with them.
Powell retrieved more records regarding the sheriff’s sale, telling Clifford that it was set for May 24. Reviewing the documents, Clifford said Federal National had a judgment against the property for $33,098.46. Powell said the judgment was the first time they had seen Federal National’s name.
“It looks like we’ll have to serve Federal National as well unless Seterus represents them, too, but we don’t really know that,” Clifford said.
The difficulty with these, Clifford said, is that a mortgage company will sell a mortgage to another company, who then will sell it to another company and so on and no one really knows what’s going on with the property.
Clifford asked Behling if he wanted the property demolished, and he said yes. He then asked Behling for his estimates on repairs versus demolition. Behling said there were five units in the building and it would take about $120,000 to repair it, but demolition would only cost $14,000.
“With respect to the interests of Service Link and Seterus … I’m going to make a finding that the cost of repairs really exceeds the cost of demolition … and respondents have failed to make an effort to make the property safe. I’m therefore ordering, with respect to their interests, the property demolished,” Clifford stated.
With respect to the interests of Hubert and the court procedure involving Federal National, he said a hearing would have to be reset to May 16. At that hearing, Clifford will be able to order the property demolished. Federal National and its legal counsel will be served notification about the hearing.
In other business:
• Behling gave Clifford an update on the Steve Sanchez property at 1333 Gable Drive. The city was seeking to vacate, seal and demolish the property at the February meeting, but Clifford gave Sanchez an opportunity to rebuild it with stipulations.
Behling said since then, Sanchez submitted a schedule for the project to be completed by Feb. 1, which the city agreed to. Sanchez also provided a $7,500 cash performance bond as directed. Behring said Sanchez was being held to the schedule.
• The hearing for the property at 1010 E. Clark St. was reset to 1:30 p.m. May 16 if property owner Lionel Garza doesn’t bring it into compliance before then.
Behling said Garza was working on bringing it into compliance and he understands he has 30 days to do so. Behling will have to inspect and pass the improvements.