EXCLUSIVE: WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- A landlord's home is destroyed from the basement up and he believes it was done on purpose. It's a situation that doesn't appear to be unique to the area and now our state’s attorney is cracking down.
Brad Hauser says he came to his property to post “no trespassing” signs, until his daughter and her boyfriend move in. Instead, the landlord walked in to: broken glass and shattered mirrors everywhere, a flooded basement, cabinets and doors ripped from the hinges, no part of his rental property spared.
"This is going to take us probably a week to two weeks to clean up," Hauser said. "They even went upstairs and slung paint on the walls. You tell me why. Because they don't want to work for what they have and they think everybody owes them something. Well I got news for ya, no one owes you a thing."
Hauser says he believes it is retaliation for having the house condemned because the tenants would not take over basic utilities and were repeatedly coming up short on rent. However, friends like Treva King told a different story.
"Smart-mouthed slumlord who won't fix anything,” King said. “The living conditions are unfeasible for that of even an animal. In fact, in late July, I fell down the stairs and fractured my ankle."
King says this is how the home has looked for the better part of two years.
"I mean she (renter) gave him everything she has,” King said. “She has no money to look for a new place or a security deposit or hotel fare or any of that. She's just now literally out in the streets because of him and he thinks it's all a big joke."
"Documentation is critical so you should always have a lease and everything should be in writing,” Rockford Apartments Association CEO Paul Arena said. According to Arena, this type of scenario is not a rare occurrence.
"You're subject to fines for the problem the tenant caused,” he said. “When I called the Health Department they laughed and said, 'You realize you're turning yourself in?' but I was looking for documentation because I needed to evict those people."
Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato says change is coming.
"As a tenant, if you're going to seek to get revenge on a landlord for being asked to leave or evicted by damaging property and creating and engaging in criminal conduct, you will be held accountable,” Bruscato warned. “It won't be excused."
Neither party has been charged with anything yet. The renter insisted it was a verbal agreement Hauser and her had; the landlord claims the tenant signed a lease. Arena says the R.A.A. has asked for a tenant responsibility and accountability program to be adopted in Rockford so that situations like this one have more transparency. Thus far, Arena says the city has not been on-board.