America the Messy Yard Police State

Messy Yard cops to seize John Wuerffel home?


Schaumburg man living in front yard demands jury trial

August 27, 2010 6:46 PM

The Schaumburg man who has lived in his front yard all summer will fight the village's effort to clean his cluttered property, asking for a jury trial that a judge scheduled for next week.

Village officials are trying to get a court-ordered cleanup of John Wuerffel's property in the 1400 block of Hampton Lane, which is littered with cars and garbage. During a court hearing today, Judge Alfred Levinson set a jury trial date for Aug. 31.


Schaumburg man regains access to padlocked home

By Eric Peterson | Daily Herald Staff

Published: 8/27/2010 2:48 PM

A Schaumburg man who was living in his own yard after being padlocked out of his house during foreclosure proceedings was able to move back inside Thursday.

John Wuerffel, 62, of the 1400 block of Hampton Lane was returned access to his home by representatives of HSBC Mortgage Corp., which is handling the foreclosure case on behalf of Freddie Mac.

HSBC spokesman Neil Brazil said the house was padlocked last fall to protect its value after it appeared to have been abandoned by Wuerffel, who couldn't be found.

Wuerffel said he was living out of state when the house was padlocked, and he returned to find it in that way. He spent the winter living in homeless shelters and took to sleeping in one of his several vehicles parked in the driveway when the shelters closed in the spring.

Wuerffel's vehicles are packed with his belongings and the inside of the house is believed to be full of clutter as well. Wuerffel, who is unemployed and in debt on the house, said he collects empty soda cans which can be redeemed for a dime each in Michigan.

The house has not yet been foreclosed, and Brazil said court proceedings are on hold for the present as Freddie Mac reviews the case.

As Wuerffel remains the legal owner of the house, he had the right at any time to ask for his access to the property to be returned but never did, Brazil said.

Schaumburg officials, who've also been working with Wuerffel, confirmed that he'd been made aware of this right.

Wuerffel said he is supposed to be on medication for bipolar disorder and a heart condition, but that his financial situation has sometimes kept him from affording either one.

In fact, Wuerffel said medical bills are to blame for the threatened foreclosure of the home he's owned since 1971.

Wuerffel himself hasn't been the only one adversely affected by his situation. Neighbors have been annoyed not only by the condition of the outside of his house where he hoards all his belongings, but have said he changes his clothes in public view in the driveway.

Mark Newton, a reverse-mortgage specialist for Perl Mortgage in Deerfield has been working with Wuerffel on getting a mortgage that would allow him to keep the house.

While Wuerffel is technically eligible for such a mortgage because he's over the age of 62, the value of the house - and its current condition - come into play in such decisions, Newton said.

The village of Schaumburg was in court Friday in its ongoing effort to get a court order to clean up Wuerffel's property against his will. Such an improvement in the condition of the property could play a positive role in Wuerffel's pursuit of a reverse mortgage, Newton said.

Schaumburg officials who attended Friday's court hearing said that the hearing was continued to Tuesday after Wuerffel filed a request for a jury trial.


John Wuerffel Living In Van Outside Foreclosed Home In Schaumburg

First Posted: 08-25-10 12:40 PM

John Wuerffel wakes up every morning in a green minivan with his pit bull, Dolce. He's ten yards away from the front door of his home in Schaumburg, Illinois, a northwest suburb of Chicago.

Wuerffel bought the home on Hampton Lane in 1971. Now, a padlock on his door, courtesy of HSBC Mortgage Corp., has him living in the front yard.

As is so often the case with foreclosures, Wuerffel's situation isn't simple. A 62-year-old divorcée, he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder; his wife and children moved away many years ago.

He told NBC Chicago that he's been unemployed for over six years. Now, to make ends meet, "I steal cans," he says. He takes the cans to nearby Michigan, where he can recycle them for 10 cents each. "I gotta live," he told the station.

Wuerffel's yard, in an otherwise tranquil suburban neighborhood, is covered with trash, junk, bottles, cans, and four rusted automobiles. Neighbors regularly complain of the unpleasant sights and smells of his property, according to the Chicago Tribune.

This puts the village of Schaumburg in a difficult position. Starting a few years ago, it began taking legal action against him to clean up the property. He now owes liens for the several times workers have come by, removed mountains of garbage, and towed away inoperable vehicles. But there is little more they can do than file housing code violations, and Wuerffel refuses medical or mental treatment. Story continues below Advertisement

To make matters worse, HSBC foreclosed on the property earlier this year. Wuerffel says he only owes the bank $9,600; according to the Tribune, a loan officer working with him says his debts are significantly higher.

The mortgage company locked the house out of fear that Wuerffel would damage the property by bring his junk collecting indoors.

For now, he is working to obtain a reverse mortgage, where a bank would buy equity in the house in exchange for cash that Wuerffel could use to pay his debts. Meanwhile, police and social workers regularly visit his house to offer him what little help they can. He will appear in court again on Friday, facing another deadline to clean up his property.

Tonight, he'll sleep in his van, a padlock away from the place he's called home since he was 23-years-old.

Will cops seize messy yard criminals home? OK, it's not a criminal trial it's a civil trial.


Jurors hear 'leave me alone'

By Kate Thayer, TribLocal reporter

A sad and angry John Wuerffel asked jurors Thursday to just let him be while Schaumburg officials argued in an unusual trial that his property is so cluttered as to be hazardous.

“Leave my dog and me alone,” Wuerffel, 62, said tearfully. “Just let me live my life – what’s left of it.”

When neighbors and village employees testified that the property could attract rodents, bugs and catch fire and needed to be cleaned up, Wuerffel, acting as his own attorney, lashed back.

“What one man considers garbage, another considers treasure,” he said, explaining that he raids garbage containers for bottles, cans and other recyclables he plans to return to other states for the 5- or 10-cent refunds. He said he cannot work due to a disability.

Jurors at the Rolling Meadows Courthouse will hear closing arguments Friday in what officials have said is the first such trial in a municipal case. Jurors must decide if Wuerffel is guilty of code violations and should be fined for his property in the 1400 block of Hampton Lane.

The village is seeking a court-ordered cleanup of the several inoperable vans in his driveway and the mounds of trash in the yard and throughout his three-bedroom home. But only the judge can issue such an order.

There have been two previous cleanups since 2008. After village employees explained those, Wuerffel said they'd stolen his property.

The trial, which began Thursday morning with jury selection, was interrupted several times when Associate Judge Hyman Riebman had to remind Wuerffel of the legal process. He is not eligible for a public defender because the matter is not a criminal case with jail as a possible outcome.

Wuerffel, who brought a black crow figurine to the defense table for good luck, often strayed from questioning witnesses, instead making statements of his own. He wheeled around the courtroom in an office chair and told the judge and jurors that he learned courtroom procedure by watching the O.J. Simpson case on television.

Wuerffel’s next-door neighbor for 26 years, Margy Bedyk, testified that the home he bought in 1971 only became a problem in the last four to five years.

“It’s filthy, disgusting; it smells,” she said, describing the last year as the worst.

Bedyk said she and her family have seen Wuerffel use his yard as a toilet. He began living in his yard and a van earlier this year after he was locked out of his home as part of a foreclosure process. The lock has been removed, but Wuerffel stays outside because he said the village has marked the house uninhabitable and there are no working utilities.

Public Health Officer Mary Passaglia testified that she’s been tracking the condition of the home since the court-ordered cleaning last year. She showed jurors photos of what she called the deteriorating property with mold and water damage, breaks in ceilings and clutter blocking hallways and entrances.

Fire inspector Bruce Buhrkey said the house is a hazard because the debris is combustible and passage almost impossible.


America the Messy Yard Police State