Columbus landlord serving time for not fixing up properties

Columbus is cracking down on landlords who don't fix their properties. Now one landlord is even serving jail time. (WSYX/WTTE)

Columbus is cracking down on landlords who don't fix their properties. Now one landlord is even serving jail time.

Back in January, Columbus fire crews needed extra help to battle a stubborn fire at a duplex on Ann Street in South Columbus. The property is now boarded up and not much has changed in the past 10 months. Columbus Code Enforcement Administrator Dana Rose said the duplex is owned by Jose Villavicencio, who owns more than 30 mostly run down rental properties across the city.

"He's one of these individuals that's been a constant problem for us here in the court for quite some time," said Franklin County Environment Judge Dan Hawkins.

City Code Enforcement Investigators filed criminal complaints against the slumlord last year for violations at four properties. He was put on probation after pleading guilty to charges in two of the four cases. When Hawkins learned of violations at Villavicencio's other properties, Including Ann Street, he tossed him in jail.

"Throwing someone in jail for a code violation is always a last resort," said the judge.

Villavicencio was sentenced to 178 days behind bars.

"This individual has been in and out of jail with me for a number of years," said Hawkins. "At this point, the ball's in his court. If he wants to get out of jail, he has to show me he's serious about cleaning them up."

Back on Ann Street, the city is still after Villavicencio to bring this house back into compliance. He can hire outside help, but little has been done to make much-needed repairs.

"There's a lot of fire damage," said Rose. "The porch is in disrepair. If you go around back, it's open in the back and at the roof level."

Payola Turner, a code enforcement inspector for 17 years, said Villavicenzio got a permit to begin work last August.

"There's a third party company that's supposed to be his contractor. Pretty much when he went to jail, everything stopped, as far as the work goes," said Turner.

"I told him on that day that he will get out of jail as soon as I'm presented with a plan that I'm confident going forward will show that he won't be back in my court," said Judge Hawkins. "Plain and simple. I'm tired of my probation staff and code violation holding his hand throughout this whole process."

John Stubbins said the Ann Street neighbors are also tired of it. Stubbins says the neighborhood is left to suffer.

"This particular property, you have no idea what's going on," he said. "There are rodents living inside this thing. Raccoons.. squirrels. Standing water."

But until there's a concrete plan the judge approves, Villavicencio - and his neighbors - will serve their time. Villavicencio's release date is March 7, 2019.

If you have a problem property in your neighborhood, you can report it on the city's code enforcement site here.

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