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Cherry Orchard landlords fined; ordered to vacate problem property

By Pam G. Dempsey, CU-CitizenAccess, and Sean Powers, Illinois Public Media -- A Champaign County judge fined a father-son landlord team more than $54,000 Monday in a three-and-a-half-year-old public health department case at an apartment complex in Champaign County. (Read order here

Bernard Ramos and his father, Eduardo, have six months to pay the fines as well as court costs and were also ordered to vacate the Cherry Orchard apartment complex immediately. 

Following the ruling, Bernard Ramos submitted a notice of appeal to the assistant state’s attorney.

The Ramoses are accused of failing to legally connect sewer and septic systems for six out of their eight apartment buildings on the property, located just outside of Rantoul. The apartment complex has traditionally housed many migrant workers.

The Champaign County Public Health Department also sought to stop the Ramoses from renting out the property until the septic system could be legally fixed.

 

The landlords have pledged to take responsibility for the property, promising to have the six apartment buildings that are in violation of the county’s health ordinance re-opened by this summer.

There is typically an uptick in occupancy at the apartment complex during the warmer months due to an influx of migrant workers to the area. A 2007 migrant camp license application for the property reports there are at least 48 family rental units at Cherry Orchard.

County public health officials believe there are at least eight single men living at the property. The Ramoses are also believed to be living there.

After Monday’s ruling, the Ramoses ignored a request for comment, and instead, flashed a handwritten sign with the words “slander – lying” as they walked past media on their way out of the courtroom.

Julie Pryde, director of the Champaign County Public Health Department, said she was satisfied with the ruling.

“It’s a very rare occurrence for everything to get this far,” she said. “Most people do the right thing. They found out there’s a problem and they get the problem fixed.”

Bernard and Eduardo Ramos have made previous agreements during the past year to vacate the property and legally repair the sewer system, but they had yet to follow through, public health officials said.

The Ramoses have owned more than 30 properties in Champaign County, and have faced hundreds of code violations. Several of these properties, including Cherry Orchard, have been under foreclosure, according to the Champaign County Recorder’s Office.

Champaign County also has a second case pending against the Ramoses for several structure violations at Cherry Orchard under its amended nuisance ordinances. 

That case will move forward, said John Hall, director of the county’s planning and zoning department.

“As far as I know, they plan to get the septic system (repaired),” Hall said, noting that the septic system problem is just one of several that exist at the property. 

In an interview last month, Hall said several of the county’s dangerous structure definitions were noted at Cherry Orchard during previous inspections.

A later request for inspection documents and correspondence to the Ramoses as related to that case under the Freedom Of Information Act was denied.

 “This case is a long way from being resolved and those buildings are a long way from being repaired,” Hall said then. 

“I believe, in total, both cases can indicate that these buildings are a real safety hazard but I don’t know how that’s going to be addressed in court,” he said then.

 

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