Couple fined $5K for property they haven`t owned for years - Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

Couple fined nearly $5K for property they haven`t owned for years

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Imagine opening the mail and finding a bill from the city of Chicago for nearly $5,000 for a piece of property you haven't owned in more than a decade.

That's the nightmare faced by one former resident, who tells FOX 32's Dane Placko you just can't fight City Hall.

"Me and Mrs. Ellis would like to have our name cleared. Bottom line--we've moved on. It's not our property," Andre Ellis explains.

Andre Ellis says he's been fighting the city of Chicago for months over a piece of property he hasn't owned in years. In the early 90's Ellis and his wife bought a small home in the Morgan Park neighborhood, but times were tough. He lost his job and they couldn't make the payments.

"It was very unfortunate," says Ellis. "We were young when we first bought the house. We raised our family. We were evicted."

They were evicted in the mid-90's by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development—or HUD, which had taken ownership of the property. A few years later, the Ellis' heard from a former neighbor that HUD had demolished the home.

"They tore it down. I said 'oh my gosh, really?' So me and my wife jumped in the car," Ellis recalls. "We rolled by and said 'wow!'"

Fast forward and the Ellis' have rebuilt their lives. They live in a new home in the south suburbs, and own an educational facility that helps adults get their GED's.

When out of nowhere last January, a flurry of bills and court summons from the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation. The department claims the Ellis' owe the city more than $4,000 in payments and fines because for years, Streets and San had been cutting the weeds on that vacant lot in Morgan Park.

"Me and my wife looked at that letter that arrived and... we were shocked!" he says.

Shocked, because records show HUD has been paying the property taxes... and apparently took title of the property years ago.

In a statement, a spokesman for Streets and San says the city is trying to establish who owns the vacant lot, because it's possible someone failed to transfer the title: "If it is determined that Mr. Ellis is not the property owner and was not at the time of the violations, he will not be responsible for the fines."

So maybe you can fight City Hall after all.

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