MIAMI COUNTY — A local landlord was fined a total of nearly $10,000 for property maintenance issues with approximately 18 properties located in Piqua in Miami County Municipal Court this week.
On Wednesday, Miami County Municipal Court Judge Sam Huffman imposed fines of $450 each per approximately 18 charges of property maintenance code violations against Edwin L. Liette, 83, of Piqua. The fines and court costs for each separate charge, each misdemeanors of the first degree, added up to almost $10,000.
The city of Piqua filed approximately 24 criminal charges against Liette for dilapidated properties he owns under Liette Realty II, LLC in February following the city’s code enforcement process. In April, Liette entered a plea of no contest, and this week, the court dismissed approximately seven of those cases after improvements had been done, leaving 18 properties that Piqua City Attorney Frank Patrizio said still had not been repaired to the city’s satisfaction.
The property maintenance issues included holes in roofs, illegal wiring, faulty plumbing, unsafe furnaces, unfinished cement work, rotting wood, falling gutters, broken windows, and more, according to photos and documents from the city of Piqua.
The properties Liette received fines for were located on the 1500 block of Andover Avenue, the 600 block of Park Avenue, the 400 and 500 blocks of Kitt Street, the 500 block of South College Street, the 600 block of Spring Street, the 500 block of Cleveland Street, the 600 block of West North Street, the 500 block of South Street, the 900 block of High Street, the 200 and 600 blocks of South Main Street, the 500 block of North Main Street, the 200 block of Miami Street, the 1100 block of South Roosevelt Avenue, the 400 block of Webber Street, and the 1400 block of Grant Street.
Liette’s attorney Kevin L. Lennen said Liette had spent an excess of $50,000 to improve the properties, saying, “They made an effort.” Lennen provided Huffman with documentation of the improvements, saying that, upon review, he believed more than seven properties had been abated. He also added later that the properties “clearly stand in better shape.”
“The city has an agenda on rental properties,” Lennen said. Lennen also said the city should have pursued the issue through civil court rather than with criminal proceedings.
“I think Mr. Liette has gotten the message,” Lennen said. “These are not million dollar homes.”
Liette also spoke on his behalf, saying the recent tornadoes prevented him from getting contractors in to work on the properties in time.
Huffman said it was clear that more work still needed to be done, saying Liette may have “bitten off more than you can chew” with his business.
He also noted that while some of the residences were cheaper homes, there was a “certain standard of living” that residents should still be afforded.
Huffman also addressed the time frame, noting the tornadoes had occurred in late May, but these charges were filed in February. Huffman also noted the city was in contact with Liette about the code issues for approximately a year prior to filing criminal charges.
“The time for these cases to be resolved is up,” Huffman said. “It’s not about money. It’s about cleaning up the city of Piqua.”
Huffman also said, from looking at photos of the properties, some of the dwellings should be demolished. He noted one house with tar paper lying over the shingles where there is a hole in the roof. Huffman also noted properties with holes in the walls.
Huffman said that Piqua is a “beautiful city,” but added, “There are some neighborhoods that need to be cleaned up.” Huffman also added he appreciated what Liette was going through with repairing the properties.
Following the hearing, Patrizio said the city of Piqua had tried to work with Liette for two years prior to filing charges in February. City of Piqua Code Compliance Coordinator Aaron Morrison said the city of Piqua began its code enforcement in June 2016, which included addressing some of Liette’s properties.
Morrison said he has worked on over 1,000 code compliance cases since the city began this initiative, adding that approximately 70 percent of the cases were resolved through voluntary compliance that never reached Municipal Court. The cases brought to Municipal Court are the ones where property owners are not working with the city on improving the properties.
“Our main goal is the health and safety of the citizens of Piqua,” Morrison said.
Morrison said the city works with individuals on time frames on getting property maintenance issues fixed if the property owners keep them updated on the improvements and show progress. Morrison said they are also working their way through the city, but residents can also report any property maintenance issues for the city to inspect. The city looks for any property maintenance issues that may cause hazardous or unsafe conditions, as well as defective gutters or roofs, peeling paint, unsafe sidewalks, vehicles parked in the grass, and so on.
Morrison also said the tenants of rental homes can invite the city in their residences to inspect the homes if they believe there may be an issue. Tenants do not need permission from their landlord or property owner to have the code compliance coordinator look inside the house, he said.
For questions regarding code compliance or to report a property maintenance issue, Morrison can be contacted at the Planning and Zoning Office at (937) 778-2049.
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