February 4, 2013

Renters, city not able to reach Logansport landlord

City says move adds to list of growing concerns

by Caitlin Huston

— A Logansport landlord who owns at least 35 properties in the city hasn’t been heard from in about two months, according to city officials.

Renters have told the city that they haven’t been able to contact Jeff Murray, a landlord who the city has repeatedly brought to court, about paying rent or with property concerns. City officials say that while his absence is concerning, this just adds to a list of growing issues they’ve had with Murray.  

George Franklin, code enforcement officer, said he first became aware of Murray’s lack of response when renters called his office and said they weren’t able to get in touch with their landlord.

“Nobody has seen him in Logansport since the first Monday in December,” Franklin said.

Murray is registered as the owner of 35 properties in the city, according to the county’s geographic information system.

The renters have been calling and asking for help with repairs, according to Building Commissioner Bill Drinkwine.

“He’s not responding to any reports of needs in some of his properties,” Drinkwine said.

Steve Schwering, a Logansport real estate agent, said that Murray recently asked him to become property manager for a portion of his properties.

As property manager, Schwering said he is responsible for collecting rent for those properties.

He said his office could also field questions from other renters who cannot get in touch with Murray to pay their rents.

Drinkwine said the latest development with Murray is troubling, but it’s a continuation of concerns with him.

“The city’s been concerned with Mr. Murray for quite some time,” Drinkwine said.

In March 2009, the city handed down a $5,000 repeat offender fine to Murray for trash violations. At the board of works meeting at that time, Murray challenged the idea that he had received a letter informing him of the violation and stated that the confirmation signature was not his.

Murray has appeared in court against the city and at meetings since 2010 for buildings that the city said were unsafe. He was also the owner of a building off Sixth Street, which the city had repeatedly asked to be torn down. The building was destroyed by a fire on Thanksgiving Day last year.

Drinkwine said the city has often sent notices to Murray to appear before the Board of Public Works and Safety and has him on the docket about two times a month.

“Our office’s position is that he is a difficult landlord,” Drinkwine said.

After sending notices to Murray, Drinkwine said the city often runs into communication problems.

“The city has constantly said in the court it’s a big problem that we have a lack of response and a lack of communication,” Drinkwine said.

In terms of his absence, Drinkwine said the city would only be able to issue citations and letters of request for Murray’s appearance if one of his properties is deemed unsafe or in violation of

the health code.

“The city can only do so much,” Drinkwine said.

The Pharos-Tribune attempted to contact Murray, but he could not be reached for comment.

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