Tuesday, May 16, 2006

AP Wire | 05/14/2006 | AP Enterprise: State of Illinois a squatter with hundreds of expired leases

AP Wire | 05/14/2006 | AP Enterprise: State of Illinois a squatter with hundreds of expired leases:

"AP Enterprise: State of Illinois a squatter with hundreds of expired leases
JOHN O'CONNOR
Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The state of Illinois kept Larry Isaacs hanging for four years.

Isaacs rented an office in Tuscola to the Department of Children and Family Services, but the lease expired in March 2002. Although he made about $3,000 worth of state-requested improvements, officials kept putting off a decision on whether to stay or pull out and leave Isaacs to scramble for a new tenant.

He finally got a new deal for up to 10 years, but many other landlords aren't so lucky.

More than half the 652 leases the state had as of December have expired. That's nearly five times the number of 'holdovers' that Gov. Rod Blagojevich faced when he took office in 2003, according to an Associated Press analysis of state documents.

That complicates life for the landlords but also makes Illinois a 'squatter' that could be hit with doubled rent payments or eviction with little or no notice, one regulatory official said.

A state audit, which pointed out that two landlords are suing the state, admonished the agency responsible for the problem - the Department of Central Management Services.

CMS says it's comprehensively reviewing state office needs and that takes time.

Meanwhile, landlords are left scratching their heads and checking their pocketbooks.

'It's always, 'There's people who have been on longer holdover than you, there's other people who have priority,'' said one landlord, whose last, five-year lease expired in 2001 and who spoke only on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing a new deal. 'It's been 10 years since I've had a raise.'

Another landlord who has two leases that expired nearly four years ago spoke of losses of $8,000 a month.

'You put money into the properties and you're really getting no return,' said that landlord, who also requested anonymity. 'You're not even covering your expenses: taxes, insurance, other associated costs such as trash collection.'

[...]

What's more, landlords who have gotten new pacts since January 2004 have a track record of supporting Democratic candidates.

Thirty landlords who have landed 70 new leases in that time have contributed $2.2 million to Democratic political campaign funds during the past 10 years and just $516,000 to Republicans, according to an AP review. Those donations include a total of $87,120 to Blagojevich.

Those who continue to wait for new leases - 231 landlords - have given $6.2 million to the GOP and $2.2 million to Democrats, including $202,570 to Blagojevich."

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