Chicago property owner amasses $15M in fines for ‘rat harborage’

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Suburban landowner Suzie B. Wilson has acquired hundreds of largely vacant properties in the city’s south and west sides. She has garnered thousands of tickets worth millions of dollars in the meantime.

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A suburban Chicago landowner who has assembled an empire of largely vacant lots throughout the Second City has been hit with $15 million in fines related to fostering rats on her properties.

Companies owned by Suzie B. Wilson own hundreds of properties on Chicago’s south and west sides that have amassed millions in fines over “providing rat harborage” from piles of junk, according to local news outlet Block Club Chicago.

Experts told the outlet Wilson appeared to be land-banking the properties, keeping them vacant and unimproved while waiting for values to rise either through adjacent property improvements or in the event that the properties become necessary for a project.

“What is the long-term plan for these lots? Are you waiting for someone else to come and pay you a higher value, so you enjoy a landslide profit?” real estate developer Lennox Jackson told Block Club.

Chicago has been battling its reputation as a perennial rat-haven. The pest control company Orkin named the Windy City America’s rat capital for the eighth straight year last October. The city has responded with ordinances targeting pet waste and other items that attract the rodents, which helped put Wilson’s numerous properties in the crosshairs.

Wilson’s companies own more than 800 properties and have accumulated thousands of tickets from the city.

In Englewood, which is among Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, Wilson faces more than 4,100 tickets worth more than $8 million, Block Club reported. 

Wilson has been sued by nearby property owners, the city and the region’s transit agency over the years. She, in turn, has unsuccessfully sued the city, calling its policies around trimming weeds unconstitutional.

The city told Block Club it had filed liens on some of Wilson’s properties, which can then be used to foreclose on the land.

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