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Foreclosure problems - and trash - pile up

Published: Sunday, June 2, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

CRYSTAL LAKE – Pat McEvilly’s view out of her Primrose Lane home is not as pleasant as it once was.

Where she once saw a beautiful home on 635 Primrose Lane with a well-tended lawn and garden, she now sees a pile of old furniture and trash, grass creeping toward a foot in length, city notices plastered on the front door, and something rotting on the back stoop.

It is the reality of living next to a foreclosed house and a situation she has found nearly impossible to change.

“I guess you can find a foreclosed home, and if you are related to the old owner, you can dump your garbage there and you’re within your rights,” she said. “Evidently there is nothing we can do, and as a taxpayer, I’m furious. It makes me sick.”

McEvilly said problems began after the daughter of the original owner and some of her friends moved into the foreclosed property last August and lived there until January. After they moved out, they came back in May and started leaving old furniture and other unwanted items on the property.

At the same time, the yard has been neglected and the structure has deteriorated. McEvilly said she has contacted city departments, police and the mortgage company but told every agency is limited in what it can do.

She said the city has posted notices on the house to remove the garbage, which has been unsuccessful, and the mortgage company said it would be able to remove the garbage on May 28, which also did not happen.

The city cannot legally mow the lawn until grass length exceeds 8 inches.

“The house next to us is definitely going to ruin our property values,” she said, noting that her property’s value already has plummeted $60,000 from the poor housing market and economy. “This is happening all over this country, so it is no surprise our property values are falling when trashing a house by someone who doesn’t even own it is ... protected by law.”

Rick Paulson, building commissioner for Crystal Lake, said foreclosures can be a lengthy and frustrating process because of the “lis pendens” period – the time between the foreclosure notice and when the bank or mortgage company legally takes possession. It can be anywhere from 18 months to two years, Paulson said.

During that time, Paulson said banks could allow the owner to stay in order for the property to be easily maintained or some owners could be so aggravated they destroy the inside of the house before leaving.

The varying circumstances surrounding foreclosures make it difficult to monitor, but Paulson encouraged residents who notice a foreclosed property to contact the city. While access is limited, he said the city still can enter the property in cases of smoke alarm activation or broken pipes, mow the grass and remove trash in some cases.

“My staff tries to educate residents and meet with neighbors of foreclosed properties about what the city can do to abate the problem to the extent of our capabilities,” he said. “We can’t be everywhere, so I like the residents to be our eyes, but they need to understand the process, too.”

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