Hammond landlord asking U.S. Supreme Court to overturn city order to remove apartments from single-family dwelling.

Court cases and rulings

The following article was posted by Dan Carden  dan.carden@nwi.com  219-933-3357  Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan has reported on Indiana state government for The Times since 2009. He also covers casinos, campaigns and corruption.

July 29, 2019

Hammond landlord asking U.S. Supreme Court to overturn city order to remove apartments from single-family dwelling.

 

HAMMOND — 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 is asking the U.S. Supreme Court for approval to keep his rental property as-is.

Landlord Jose Andrade argues in his petition for review by the nation’s highest court that Hammond cannot require his property, constructed as a single-family home in 1927 and converted to apartments shortly thereafter, to comply with the city’s building code, since it only was adopted in 1981.

“The enforcement of said code as it is being applied to a dwelling that was built prior to the adoption of said code represents an enforcement of an ex post facto law,” Andrade said.

“Such enforcement is deemed illegal and improper, and therefore violates petitioner’s Fifth and 14th Amendment rights under the United States Constitution regarding property and due process.”

Andrade also claims it’s unfair for Hammond to require his property be restored to a single-family home when other houses in the neighborhood are allowed by the city to contain two apartments.

The nine Supreme Court justices are scheduled to consider Andrade’s petition at their Oct. 1 weekly conference meeting, according to the court’s docket.

At least four of the justices must agree to accept the case, otherwise the city’s order will stand.

Typically, the Supreme Court accepts about 100 cases a year out of 7,000 to 8,000 petitions submitted for review.

The city of Hammond’s attorneys at the firm of Eichhorn and Eichhorn said they do not intend to respond to Andrade’s request for review, unless specifically directed to by the Supreme Court.

In March, the Indiana Supreme Court — by a 3-2 margin — declined to grant transfer to Andrade, 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.

The Hammond board’s order followed a 2016 city inspection of 6609 Jefferson Ave. that 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, according to court records.

Specifically, 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 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.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. has said it is 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.

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