Family faces eviction for zoning violation

A Mishawaka family was shocked to receive an eviction notice stating they have to move out of the home they have lived in for years because they are violating zoning laws.

The issue dates back to 2006 when the city rezoned the neighborhood for residential use only. The property owner wanted to create apartments at the former Holy Cross nursing home, but was unable to do so due to the zoning change. A search through St. Joseph County records shows that Ron Koehler is the owner of the property in the 600 block of Queensboro Avenue in Mishawaka.

Rhonda Robinson moved into the property with her family about 2 ½ years ago. She said she was unaware that there were zoning restrictions. The nursing home was split up into several units and other tenants were also living in the property.

“If we had known we would have never rented here,” Robinson said.

Robinson, along with her husband and two kids, had struggled with the issues inside the property. They routinely had to deal with a leaking roof and mold.

“We asked that they repair it because it is such a big hassle,” Robinson said. “When it rains, it rains in the kitchen. It rains in the room off the dining room. It pours in. “

She was instructed by Koehler to call the management at the Wooden Indian Motel, also owned by Koehler, to address any issues with the property. Robinson said the maintenance crews would only make temporary repairs to the problem areas.

Though it was frustrating, Robinson stayed because the rent was affordable and her family is on a tight budget.

Then, they got an eviction letter from their landlord.

“We were not expecting it,” Robinson said. “The manager from the Wooden Indian showed up and said that everybody had to leave. She said no one could live here. She refused to answer anything and told us we had to be out in two weeks.”

The City of Mishawaka sent a letter to Koehler on July 17, 2014 after neighbors complained that multiple tenants were living at the Queensboro Avenue property in a structure that is “close to uninhabitable.”

“It is really hard,” Robinson said. “How do I explain to my children that we have to start over again for something that wasn’t our fault? How do I pick up and tell them we have to move? All because someone put us in a situation they knew we weren’t supposed to be in.”

Koehler has not responded to the city’s letter, according to the Mishawaka building department.

“I would like to see some justice be done,” Robinson said. “For him to be put on notice… that he cannot be a landlord and treat people like this and do this with your properties.”

The manager of the Wooden Indian tells NewsCenter 16 that Robinson doesn't have a lease, hasn't paid rent and she considers Robinson a squatter.

Robinson showed NewsCenter 16 her eviction letter. It says zoning violations are the reason for her eviction.

George Obren, director from Mishawaka Code Enforcement, said anyone in Robinson’s position should contact code enforcement for help holding landlords accountable.

“No one should have to live in substandard conditions,” Obren said. “We would make note of any deficiencies and contact property owner to get repairs.”


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