LAFAYETTE, Ind. —  The city of Lafayette’s Hearing Authority took a major step Tuesday in addressing some of Chaofeng Liu’s reported dilapidated properties by ordering the landlord to vacate two of his locations and repair them within a month to the city’s standards.
Over the summer, Lafayette’s Engineering & Public Works office received numerous calls from residents throughout the city requesting to have their residential buildings inspected to determine if those buildings were considered habitable.  
Six of those calls, according to information provided at the hearing, were in relation to Liu’s properties, and two of them didn’t meet that standard.
Typically, Lafayette’s Hearing Authority meetings only deal with buildings in the city that needed to be demolished, but at Tuesday’s meeting, the committee wanted to start addressing buildings that didn’t meet the state’s safe building laws.
The two buildings on September’s agenda were 1312 Cincinnati St. and 1026 Hartford St. in Lafayette. Both buildings were owned by Liu, the former Purdue adjunct professor of statistics. Liu is also known as Charles Lee by his tenants.
“Those properties are in a state of condition where we believe they are not safe to be habited in until the repairs are completed,” said Jacque Chosnek, the city attorney for Lafayette.
Phil Latshaw, the city’s building inspector, gave a presentation highlighting residential and structural issues with each of the buildings.
The first building presented was 1312 Cincinnati St., which displayed:
“This house is in a very unsafe condition and needs to be repaired before occupancy is granted,” a note Latshaw wrote on the presentation of 1312 Cincinnati St.
After Latshaw concluded his presentation of the building, the hearing authority board asked Liu if he had any comments regarding this building’s state and vacancy status.
“I know its conditions and have no questions in terms of what he said, and I agree,” Liu said.
The board voted to place an order of vacancy on the property until Liu complies with the city’s repair request.
Liu has until Oct. 19, 2023, to address all of the issues highlighted by Latshaw’s report and if he fails to complete those repairs or to communicate with the city regarding the status of the repairs by the deadline, Liu will receive a $2,500 fine from the city.
If the repairs aren’t completed within an additional 90 days after receiving the first fine, the city will charge Liu an additional $1,000 and can reissue this fine every additional 90 days.
Liu asked Chosnek why the city needed to implement a deadline if the property was going to be vacant until Liu and his management team completed the repairs.
Chosnek explained that when the city first contacted Liu regarding the repairs of this property, he indicated that he could have the repairs completed by October, and that’s the deadline the city and Liu originally agreed upon.
She also explained that based on state law, the city has to give a property owner 10 to 60 days to address any repairs requested by the city.
“I would like to make a statement, that it be known that these repairs have to be done in a workman-like manner, not (like it looks like now),” Latshaw said.
Before Liu sat back down for the next presentation, he asked the board if he’d be allowed to sell his property if he believed that the repairs were either too costly or unachievable in the time frame.
“The orders that are issued follow the property, so anybody that would take ownership of the property is subject to the same order of the repairs be completed and that the property remains vacated until the repairs are done,” Chosnek explained to Liu.
If Liu decides to sell the property, he must also inform the potential buyer of the repair and vacancy orders placed by the city, Chosnek explained.
Latshaw explained the issues that the engineer’s office found with the second building located at 1026 Hartford Street.
Latshaw highlighted how the building had significant foundational issues littered throughout the property.
“This is in several places and is going to need an engineer to go in and evaluate it and write out a prescriptive repair for it,” Latshaw said.
The building also had a heat vent near combustible material on the property, a wall in the kitchen that is missing drywall and a hole in the basement that leads to the exterior of the house and could potentially allow water into the basement, according to the presentation.  
One concern that Latshaw noted in the hearing was that the engineer’s office only evaluated the downstairs unit of the house. The city engineers were unable to evaluate the upstairs unit since the tenant had not invited the engineer’s office in for an inspection.
However, due to the structural concerns of the property, the city requested Liu allow the engineer’s office inside the unit to determine if the tenant could potentially live there while Liu addressed the foundational issues with the property.
Liu described his situation regarding this property to the board.
“About seven, eight, nine months ago actually, we did an inspection including the basement. My inspector, I can provide a report that says there’s no major issues with the basement, that’s why I bought it,” Liu said.
The board asked who Liu used to inspect the property and if they were a licensed engineer.
Liu explained that he used Redhawk home inspections, which the city noted was not a licensed engineer and was only a home inspector agency.  
“His version of safe and my version of safe are two different things and the foundation with the way it’s in is not safe,” Latshaw said.
The board voted to place an order of vacancy on the property until Liu complies with the city’s repair request.
After the meeting, the Journal & Courier attempted to ask Liu if he had any comments regarding the meeting.
Liu provided no comment.
Noe Padilla is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email him at and follow him on Twitter at 1NoePadilla