Metro-East News

County issued occupancy permit 3 weeks before condemning infested apartments

Roaches infest apartments, building condemned

2917 West Blvd. is infested with roaches and has leaking toilets, leaking sinks and holes in the wall, forcing residents to leave the condemned building.
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2917 West Blvd. is infested with roaches and has leaking toilets, leaking sinks and holes in the wall, forcing residents to leave the condemned building.

The St. Clair County Building and Zoning Department issued an occupancy permit in August for an apartment unit in a building that would be condemned just three weeks later, according to county records.

The building, at 2917 West Boulevard, just outside of Belleville, had an inspection in March of the unit that would be re-occupied months later, said Anne Markezich, the county building and zoning director

When the inspector went into the building, he did not pass a unit on the bottom floor that eventually was found to be infested with roaches.

“In this case, the unit that was infested was downstairs,” Markezich said. “The inspector wouldn’t have passed it.”

“(From) March through now, a lot can happen,” Markezich added.

Markezich said her office never received complaints from tenants of the building. However, her office did receive complaints from landlords of neighboring buildings about issues on the exterior of the building.

Ultimately the complaint about roaches, leaking toilets and holes in the walls, came from a social worker.

Markezich said she couldn’t comment on what caused the situation.

The county’s Intergovernmental Grants Department did help find housing for tenants, Markezich said.

A judge has ordered building landlord Jeff Thomas to provide alternate housing for tenants or to bring the units up to code. A phone call to Thomas seeking comment was not returned.

The condemned building has had code issues in the past, according to county documents.

In this case, the unit that was infested was down stairs. The inspector wouldn’t have walked passed it ... (From) March through now, a lot can happen.

Anne Markezich, St. Clair County Zoning and Building director

In 2014, the building wasn’t up to code and the county made Thomas move everyone out, redo the units before the tenants were allowed to move back in, Markezich said.

According to documents obtained from the building and zoning department in 2014, there have been complaints about junk vehicles, trash being around the building.

In 2015, there was a call about furniture and junk being around the dumpster, which Thomas indicated he would tend to.

During a 2014 inspection, the building failed an inspection twice, including smoke alarms not being installed.

In 2014, a unit was occupied in the building without a proper occupancy permit, according to county records.

Markezich added she is considering changes to the inspection process, but wouldn’t go into specifics.

Some possible changes would need to be cleared by the state’s attorney’s office, Markezich said.

Occupancy inspections by the county on vacant units are good for one year.

If a unit is occupied, it is not reinspected until the tenant leaves. That inspection, if more than a year from the previous inspection, would have to take place before the unit is reoccupied.

Building owners are responsible for requesting the occupancy inspections, meant to ensure the units meet minimum requirements for lighting, ventilation, space, heating, sanitation, protection from the elements, life safety, including safety from fire and other hazards, and for safe and sanitary maintenance, according to the building and zoning department website.

Thomas also owns an adjacent building.

“I have had other tenants call me,” Markezich said. “We followed up on the complaints and turned out to be nothing.”

Thomas has until Sept. 26 to have the building up to code. If it is not up to code, Markezich said she plans to turn the case over to the state’s attorney’s office.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter