HAMMOND — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from a Hammond landlord ordered by the city to tear out the five apartments he's leased to tenants in what once was a single-family home.
The nation's high court turned away landlord Jose Andrade's petition for review without comment, thereby leaving intact rulings from the Indiana Court of Appeals and Lake Superior Judge Calvin Hawkins that affirmed the order of the Hammond Board of Public Works and Safety for Andrade to remove the apartments.
But Andrade is not giving up.
He filed a new lawsuit Monday at the federal court in Hammond claiming he was denied due process and the city conspired to prevent him from continuing to use 6609 Jefferson Ave. as a multi-family rental property.
Specifically, Andrade alleges Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., and other city officials, sought to keep rent-subsidized tenants, commonly known as "Section 8" renters, out of "desirable" neighborhoods, and targeted landlords renting to those tenants with "unsafe building" investigations.
The city has not yet filed its reply to Andrade's latest lawsuit. It prevailed at the U.S. Supreme Court without even bothering to submit a response to Andrade's claims.
According to court records, a 2016 city inspection of Andrade's property found 12 structural issues, 11 fire hazards and six maintenance concerns, all of which rendered the home an unsafe structure under Indiana's Unsafe Building Law.
In particular, records show the unsafe conditions included inadequate fire stopping, lack of fire blocking, flammable support beams, inadequate fire separation, lack of basement apartment bedroom windows, too narrow staircases and inadequate smoke detectors.
The Hammond safety board ordered Andrade to restore the home to a single-family dwelling after determining the building was illegally converted into apartments sometime between its 1927 construction and Andrade's purchasing the property in 1998.
McDermott has said it's a top priority for his administration to protect Hammond residents by taking action to eliminate unsafe apartments that have illegally been created out of single-family homes in Lake County's most populous city.