DeKALB – As students moved into Northern Illinois University residence halls Friday, senior Jordan Lanum was trying to figure out where he would live after his apartment building was condemned.
City officials condemned the 47-unit building at 912 Edgebrook Drive after discovering what they said were dangerous conditions there. Lanum said he spent $1,100 on a security deposit and the first month's rent when he moved into apartment 2K about two weeks ago.
"I don't know how a building gets condemned," Lanum said. "I hope they do something to make sure we are taken care of."
Officials and the owner of the building, Pat Bragg of DeKalb, both said they were not sure how many tenants were displaced as a result of the condemnation.
Bragg, who was taken to the hospital not long after meeting inspectors on Friday, said the apartments in the building were nice and reasonably priced.However, the stairwell of the apartment building on Friday evening was filled with the sounds of chirping smoke detectors and a foul smell.
City Engineer John Laskowski said a plumbing inspector and deputy building official with SAFEbuilt, the outside contractor that handles building inspections for the city, along with the DeKalb Fire Department’s fire prevention officer, went to the property at 10 a.m. Friday where they met Bragg.
“... Based on the conversations with fire prevention officer, it wasn’t a good place to be living," Laskowski said.
The visit likely came in response to a complaint from a tenant to the city’s Crime Free Housing Bureau that the toilets in the apartment building did not work.
“[Inspectors] found the toilets were backing up over the bowl,” Laskowski said. “They also had a strong belief there was urine in the hallways."
Laskowski added the urine in the hallways was probably from tenants relieving themselves there because the toilets did not work. He did not know how long the plumbing had been out of service.
By 2 p.m., city officials had condemned the building and told tenants they had 24 hours to leave.
Bragg, 77, said she was unsure how many tenants were living in the building, which includes one-bedroom and efficiency apartments.
In addition to the plumbing issues, city officials found a majority of the ceiling tiles on the third floor were missing, which Laskowski said was probably caused by water damage. Adding to the building’s dangerous conditions, Laskowski said, several fire doors had been replaced with regular doors and the emergency fire lights in the building were not working.
Bragg let city officials into two apartments before she had to be taken to the hospital. She said when she met with officials she was feeling warm from the humidity and had pain in her back, which she had broken earlier this summer.
She said she wanted to go to her car to get her pain medicine for her back and her master keys before showing officials the other apartments they had asked to see.
When she was at her car, she said she started to feel shaky and unwell and a tenant called an ambulance for her. Bragg said she tried to inform the inspectors in her building by calling up and down the three flights of stairs, but after no one responded, she went to the hospital.
After her release from the hospital, she learned the building had been condemned, she said.
"I had intended to go back, I had all the keys," Bragg said. "They are not supposed to be in those apartments without my permission. That means they can do whatever they want to do."
The city contacted Townsend Property Management officials, who are finding places for displaced residents to stay. Residents can leave an emergency message at 815-787-7368 for more information.
Antowyn "T Clouds" Washington said he has lived in the building for a year and pays $425 a month in rent. He said his front door had come off its bottom hinge and did not close properly, and his toilet did not flush without plunging it.
"I didn't know it was that bad," Washington said. "My girlfriend said she wasn't surprised. ... You can't beat the rent. Cheapest in DeKalb."
Bragg said Townsend Management informed her there would be a meeting with city officials Tuesday, but that they did not have any more information at that time.
Bragg, who has owned rental property in the city for decades, said she plans to sell her properties because she's been unhappy with city officials. She said her apartments are "nice and reasonably priced."
"I'll be closing,” Bragg said, “selling and getting the [heck] out of Dodge.”
• Daily Chronicle photographer Danielle Guerra contributed to this story.