VALPARAISO | In January, James Youngjohn came to Valpariso's Utilities Board for relief from a $700 water bill allegedly caused by a tenant who turned water on a vacant apartment bathroom Youngjohn owns.
Now the city is seeking a court order to inspect that building and two others owned by Youngjohn after complaints of their condition. If found to be as bad as claimed, Valparaiso also wants the buildings vacated until they are repaired and brought up to code.
City Attorney Ethan Lowe said complaints have been received from tenants, Valparaiso's code enforcement officer, who only inspects the exterior, and from one of the city's safety departments, who responded to calls at the buildings. He said the city was unable to work out an arrangement with Youngjohn to do the inspections.
Youngjohn, whose request was rejected by the utilities board, said he's trying to fix up the buildings to get them ready for inspection by the city. He is 82 and has early stages Alzheimer's disease, so he forget things, he said. He said the complaints are from tenants who are mad at him for evicting them.
The properties in the 700 block of Franklin Street and the 300 block of Union Street. Youngjohn said the only one that needs major work is 307 Union. He said his grandfather bought one of the Union Street properties 130 years ago. He said he has paid all his bills and his taxes, but he has been losing $1,000 a month because of tenants stealing from him or damaging his properties.
"I want to get rid of the properties," he said. "I bought 'for sale' signs Wednesday after forgetting to do it for a month. I'm getting them painted, and they are not that bad inside to begin with."
Youngjohn said he's had trouble collecting claims against tenants because he forgets the court dates and the cases are dismissed.
"I will take a low, low price for them," he said.
The utilities board denied relief from the water bill because of the policy that the owner is responsible for all water going through the meter. Lowe said he expects the court to issue the order soon, possibly this week.