How to Report Property Issues in Your Neighborhood

Park Forest Director of Community Development Lawrence Kerestes (Photo: Village of Park Forest)
Park Forest Director of Community Development Lawrence Kerestes (Photo: Village of Park Forest)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- There seems to be one on every block: a house or lawn that needs attention.  Maybe the landscaping is severely overgrown or perhaps there is physical damage that has been there for years.  Not only is it an eyesore, but it could be impacting the value of your own home.  Who would want to live on a block with such a mess?  What can you do?  Who do you call?

For answers to these questions, eNews Park Forest talked to Larrie Kerestes, the Director of Community Development for the Village of Park Forest.  Kerestes has responsibility for Building Code Enforcement and his team is on the frontline in dealing with these issues.  Hs guidance is simple: let the village know your concerns!

Kerestes advises you to call the Village Hall (708-748-1112) or the Building Department directly (708-503-7703) to report your concerns.  You can also email him at [email protected]  Be sure to provide as many details as you can including the address and nature of the problem.  While residents can submit their complaints anonymously, the Code Enforcement team will provide you with a status update if you provide your name and contact information.  Either way, your name will not be provided to the homeowner.

In many cases, the house in question may be vacant.  In that case, the village will contact the property owner or the bank that holds the mortgage to address the issue.  Due to the recent economic downturns, it is not unusual for the title to a property to have been held by a succession of banks as the mortgage is bought and resold, so finding the current owner is not always straightforward.

As has been the case across the country, the number of vacant homes dramatically increased during the recent recession.  At its height in March, 2015, the village had 582 vacant single-family properties. That number is now down to about 300 as the housing market has strengthened. Similarly, the number of foreclosed properties in the village is now down to about 150 from its peak of 780 in March, 2014.

Kerestes noted that if resolution of a reported issue is prolonged, the village may sometimes act on its own to address the problem.  For example, in the case of an overgrown lawn on unoccupied property, the village may pay a contractor to mow.  The village recovers its cost via a lien on the property when it is ultimately sold.  The village does not arrange for contractors to address issues on occupied properties.

Per Kerestes, the village is somewhat limited in what it can do to quickly address problems.  Some situations can linger for a prolonged period.  While the goal is for the property owner to quickly comply with needed repairs once contacted, the village does have the ability to fine non-compliant property owners up to $750 per day until the violations are rectified.

While the village strives to resolve property issues in a timely manner, in some cases the damage to abandoned houses is so severe that the only recourse is demolition.  Frequently, these properties have roof problems which have caused extensive mold and deterioration in the walls.   Over the past 30 years, there have been 125 houses demolished and, according to Kerestes, there is currently a list of approximately 100 properties on an informal watch list.

The guiding principle for residents, advises Kerestes, is that they need to be proactive in notifying the village of neglected property issues in a timely manner.   Do not assume that someone else has reported it.  The sooner you report an issue, the sooner the village can investigate and hopefully rectify the situation.