LORAIN — City Council members are not immune to the city’s housing court docket, with Dennis Flores, D-Ward 2, responding to a summons Wednesday involving his mother’s property on West 18th Street.
Flores lives in the house at 212 W. 18th St., although it is registered to his 93-year-old mother, Anna Cruz. Cruz purchased the house in 2013 for $9,000, but lives in another property she owns. Flores has been living at 212 W. 18th St. since she purchased it and said he has been fixing it up over the years. He said his work has concentrated on the inside of the property — replacing the furnace, upstairs windows and gutting the kitchen — but the property was cited in June for failing siding and no railings on the front porch stairs.
The violation notice was mailed June 27 and gave Flores a date of July 11 to complete the work. The deadline was extended into August. A case was filed against Cruz — the homeowner — Jan. 2 for two minor misdemeanor counts as the work had not been done. Flores appeared in court Wednesday with attorney Michael Duff and was given a continuance through mid-April.
Flores said he has been working on repairing the outside of the house, spending almost $400 on cedar shake siding. The porch railings, which were ripped off by Flores’ dogs when they got excited, have since been put back up, he said.
The councilman’s main concern is elderly or low-income residents who can’t afford repairs in the time allotted by the city’s Building, Housing and Planning department.
“I understand there’s two sides to it,” Flores said. “We are trying to get the property maintenance code enforcement, you know people may need to take more time, more pride in their abode, their home or their property. … I like to keep my property nice and clean and with the landscaping and the painting and stuff, so I’m working on the house. The point where there’s a senior citizen on a fixed income living by herself or himself and people come by every so often to check on them, you’re going to cite that guy, you’re going to drag that guy into the courthouse — and I’ve seen it — just so that they can hit them up with the court costs and fines.”
He added later, “I’m going to need more time, you know, I’m going to have to come up with money for the siding, I’m going to have to come up with materials for the front porch. All that costs money on my fixed income.”
The length of time and extensions given by the department depend on the severity of the citation. According to a staffer in the Building, Housing and Planning department, those cited for major repairs including painting or siding are being given until April 30 to complete them, and some roof manufacturers require 40-degree or higher temperatures for installation, slowing repairs during the winter months.
Safety/Service Director Dan Given said there are programs available for low-income or elderly residents to help fix citations. He also said the department tries to work with homeowners on their repairs.
“Mr. Flores’ problem is he didn’t take care of his mother’s problem in a timely manner,” Given said. “When you ignore the housing department, the housing department has no other alternative but to forward it to the courts for legal action. The (Building, Housing and Planning) department regularly works with families and property owners — as long as they’re making progress and they’re telling us what they’re doing they do not want to be punitive. They work with people and give them the time to do it as long as they do what they say they’re going to do.”
Given noted Flores is one of the more vocal Council members ready to point out housing violations in the city — often sending pictures of blighted or abandoned properties to the service director to alert the Building, Housing and Planning department.
Built in 1900, according to the Lorain County Auditor’s website, the market value of 212 W. 18th St. is $30,420. Just more than $2,600 are owed in back taxes, according to the auditor.
Flores said he ultimately plans to complete the repairs, though he may eventually sell the property.
“I’m going to do the best I can to comply with the citation,” he said. “I want to get the city off of my back.”