By Brad Edwards

CHICAGO (CBS) — Could you be forced to foot the bill for rats on city property?


That’s what 87-year-old Nancy Jajkowski and her 89-year-old husband Michael learned. They live in Niles. The property in question is on the city’s West Side on the 600 block of North Christiana Avenue.

“The stress from the phone calls and the letters from the city and attorneys that are trying to collect on behalf of the city are killing my parents,” their son, Bob Jajkowski, tells CBS 2’s Brad Edwards.

It started last year when the Jajkowskis paid a $650 dollar fine for overgrown weeds.

“Two days later another notice from the city,” the son says.  “This one for more than $2,000.”

It included the same charge they’d just paid and more – one for $500 for “abatement measures on the parkway.”  Basically, they were charged for an alleged rat hole on the piece of land between the street and sidewalk, which is actually owned by the city. Same thing for a shared alleyway that the city says had a rat burrow.

“If there is a rat hole here what is a 90-year-old couple to do?” their lawyer, William Spielberger, says.  “It’s outrageous.”

City officials say they treated the rat problem numerous times and tried to inform the owners at the Chicago home, though they live in Niles. Yes, they say, you’re responsible for the alley and parkway when it comes to rats.

“The top priority of the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation is to protect the health, safety and well-being of Chicago residents,” a statement said. “In this instance, we attempted to make contact with the homeowner on several occasions to discuss community complaints stemming from the property.  Our department issued citations in an effort to compel the homeowner to maintain their property in accordance with the Chicago Municipal Code for issues including significant overgrowth of weeds, failure to maintain the parkway and failure to maintain rat stoppage.”

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