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City of Joliet v. Szayna

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

October 27, 2016

CITY OF JOLIET, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MALGORZATA SZAYNA, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County, No. 10-OV-2535; the Hon. Carmen Goodman, Judge, presiding.

         Affirmed in part and vacated in part. Cause remanded with directions.

          Malgorzata Szayna, of Alexandria, Virginia, appellant pro se.

          Mary J. Kucharz, Assistant Corporation Counsel, of Joliet, for appellee.

          Panel PRESIDING JUSTICE O'BRIEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice McDade concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Carter dissented, with opinion.

          OPINION

          O'BRIEN PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Malgorzata Szayna, appeals from a judgment finding her guilty of failure to abate violations of the City of Joliet's ordinance code and unlawful occupancy of a rental unit. Defendant requests we vacate the judgment and remand with instructions to dismiss the complaint. We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand with directions.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 On May 11, 2010, plaintiff, the City of Joliet, filed a two-count complaint against defendant, the owner of a multiple-unit apartment building located in Joliet. Count I of the complaint alleged that defendant committed the offense of failure to abate violations of the ordinances of the City of Joliet. Count I alleged that each violation was subject to a fine of up to "$750.00 per day each violation is allowed to exist in violation of Ordinance Section 8-355 of the Ordinances of the City of Joliet."

         ¶ 4 Plaintiff attached to the complaint a list of the ordinance violations it claimed defendant failed to abate. The list of violations is based upon an inspection of the property dated March 3, 2010, and includes the following ordinance violations:

(1) building windows missing screens;
(2) building screen door defective;
(3) building doors needed to be scraped and painted;
(4) the east porch's foundation defective;
(5) garage siding needed to be scraped and painted;
(6) dining room broken glass window in unit 1;
(7) master bath toilet in unit 1 defective or missing;
(8) unit 2 vacant;
(9) unit 3 no entry and inspection needed;
(10) unit 6 no entry and inspection needed;
(11) light fixture cover missing in unit 8; and
(12) kitchen light fixture defective in unit 8.

         ¶ 5 Count II of the complaint alleged that on March 3, 2010, defendant committed the offense of "failure to allow an inspection of a rental unit." Count II alleged that this violation was subject to a fine of up to $750 per day each violation is allowed to exist. Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint during the proceedings.

         ¶ 6 On August 10, 2010, an attorney filed an appearance on behalf of defendant. Defendant did not file an answer to the complaint. The matter would remain pending for the next four years.

         ¶ 7 I. September 14, 2010, to August 26, 2014

         ¶ 8 At the outset, we note that the record on appeal does not contain any transcripts from the proceedings from September 14, 2010, through August 26, 2014.[1] For clarity, we note that our discussion of this period derives from the trial court's written orders, the docket sheet, and the parties' pleadings.

         ¶ 9 On September 14, 2010, the trial court entered an agreed order requiring defendant to "install all applicable smoke detectors and present the building for inspection of the smoke detectors." The complaint did not include an allegation regarding smoke detectors. The trial court continued the matter for status of defendant's compliance with "all other pending building violations."

         ¶ 10 On October 12, 2010, the parties agreed to an order continuing the matter "for status of defendant's compliance with the requirements of the City of Joliet building code and residential inspection obligations and the curing of all housing code violations."

         ¶ 11 On December 14, 2010, the trial court continued the matter for status of defendant's compliance and ordered defendant to allow plaintiff to inspect defendant's property.

         ¶ 12 From December 28, 2010, through March 8, 2011, the parties agreed to continue the matter for status.

         ¶ 13 On April 26, 2011, the parties agreed to continue the matter "for trial of defendant's reimbursement to plaintiff of its building inspection fees and status of defendant's compliance with the completion of the work required by the building code."

         ¶ 14 On May 24, 2011, defendant failed to appear in person for trial. The trial court entered a written order requiring the following: (1) defendant was to "complete/abate violations excluding exterior sidewalk by 7/12/11, " (2) defendant was to apply for and participate in the "City's sidewalk program, " (3) defendant was to pay all outstanding inspection fees, and (4) plaintiff was to provide defendant with an itemized inspection bill. Unlike the May 24 order, the complaint does not include an allegation regarding the sidewalk surrounding defendant's property. Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint that included an allegation concerning the sidewalk.

         ¶ 15 On July 12, 2011, the trial court entered a written order directing defendant to perform the following acts: (1) apply for participation in the "sidewalk repair program, " (2) "paint and scrape all windows and install replacement frames, " (3) pay outstanding inspection fees of $1652, (4) and allow plaintiff to inspect the building. Defendant was provided 30 days to repair any deficiencies noted in the inspection. In addition, plaintiff reserved the right to respond to and cite defendant for any building code violations that were brought to its attention.

         ¶ 16 On September 8, 2011, plaintiff filed a petition for rule to show cause against defendant. The petition alleged that defendant had failed to pay the inspection fees as ordered by the trial court on July 12, 2011.

         ¶ 17 On October 25, 2011, the trial court entered a written order, which stated that defendant's attorney appeared on her behalf and tendered a check to plaintiff for the inspection fees defendant was previously ordered to pay. The trial court continued the rule to show cause to determine whether defendant should be held in contempt for failing to honor the trial court's prior order "as to painting and scraping of windows, sidewalk replacement, and payment of fines."

         ¶ 18 On December 13, 2011, and January 24, 2012, the trial court entered written orders continuing the matter for status review of defendant's completion of repairs.

         ¶ 19 On February 28, 2012, the trial court entered a written order continuing the matter for status of "defendant's completion of all open items on the city code violations inspection list dated February 28, 2012." In addition, the court ordered defendant to "cooperate with the reinspection of the property." Although the written order referenced an inspection occurring February 28, 2012, the complaint is based on a list of violations based on a March 3, 2010, inspection of the building.[2]

         ¶ 20 On April 24, 2012, the trial court entered a written order stating that the matter was before the court for trial. Counsel for defendant represented to the court that defendant (who lived out of state) could not attend the trial because of her child's illness. The court ordered defendant to "clean the property of all debris, including abandoned furniture, and mow the grass." According to the order, defendant's failure to do so would result in plaintiff performing the work at defendant's expense. The matter was continued for trial "on all outstanding ordinance violations."

         ¶ 21 On May 22, 2012, defense counsel appeared; however, defendant herself failed again to appear for trial. The May 22 order noted that plaintiff moved for a judgment for defendant's failure to cure all building code violations. The trial court ordered defendant and all tenants of the building to vacate the premises immediately due to the building code violations. Further, the trial court allowed plaintiff to impose liens for its cleaning of the property and mowing of the grass. The trial court reserved its ruling on the fine, court costs, and expense to be awarded to plaintiff for defendant's failure to bring the property into compliance with the building code.

         ¶ 22 On July 24, 2012, defendant appeared in person along with her counsel. The trial court entered a written order stating defendant agreed "to perform the work identified in the February 28, 2012 inspection list and will also reinstall the missing front door and patch the front porch step concrete." The order directed defendant to allow plaintiff access to the building to perform further inspection.

         ¶ 23 On November 27, 2012, the trial court entered a written order directing defendant to allow plaintiff access to the property. The matter was continued for "review of code violations and defendant's obligation to bring the building into compliance with the building codes."

         ¶ 24 On February 26, 2013, the trial court entered a written order directing defendant to allow plaintiff to inspect the property. The matter was continued for a review of defendant's compliance with the "repair of building code violations."

         ¶ 25 On March 26, 2013, the trial court entered a written order continuing the matter for status and for trial scheduling. The trial court also ordered defendant to allow plaintiff ...


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