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Judge says warehouse rented by R. Kelly can be used only as recording studio

Picture taken during city inspection of warehouse rented by R. Kelly

The city on Tuesday released photos taken during an inspection Jan. 16 of the Near West Side warehouse being rented by R. Kelly. The city has, for now, barred the use of the second floor of the warehouse, citing the condition of stairs to that upper level. | Provided

The Chicago warehouse rented by R. Kelly can be used only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and only for recording studio purposes, a Cook County judge ordered Tuesday.

After viewing photos taken last week by Department of Buildings inspectors, Cook County Judge Patrice Ball-Reed stressed that the building may not be used as a residence.

“It looks like people are living there, and that’s not good,” Ball-Reed said. “Someone is living there.”

The second floor of the building at 219 N. Justine is now off limits, as well, after building inspectors found faulty stairs.

The recording studio on the first floor of the building was built without a permit or plans submitted to the city, though Ball-Reed still allowed it to be used. The next status hearing is set for Feb. 7.

Picture taken during city inspection of warehouse rented by R. Kelly

The city on Tuesday released photos taken during an inspection Jan. 16 of the Near West Side warehouse being rented by R. Kelly. The city has, for now, barred the use of the second floor of the warehouse, citing the condition of stairs to that upper level. | Provided

The warehouse, where Kelly is the only tenant, has come under scrutiny in recent weeks since the airing of a documentary series on Lifetime that detailed a host of allegations of sexual impropriety by Kelly — many involving underage girls. He has repeatedly denied the allegations and has not been charged with any crimes since he was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.

Melvin Sims, Kelly’s attorney in property matters, has been steadfast in insisting that no one ever has lived in the building, and that no one is living there now.

Sims — who told reporters he was “pleased” with Judge Ball-Reed’s ruling — said Kelly and the building’s owners are “imminently obtaining” permits to make necessary repairs.

Officials from the Chicago Department of Buildings found evidence of dozens of building code violations during their hour-long inspection Jan. 16.

The inspectors’ court-ordered access was obtained by the city amid allegations that the building had been altered illegally.

photos taken during inspection of a warehouse being rented by R. Kelly.

The city on Tuesday released photos taken during an inspection Jan. 16 of the Near West Side warehouse being rented by R. Kelly. | Provided

In their amended complaint, filed Tuesday, attorneys for the city offered a clearer picture of what inspectors found last week.

Among those violations were a host of fire hazards, a failure to maintain the integrity of the building’s walls, as well as two bathtubs without drain plugs that had collected “waste and over flows.”

“This is a problem the city needs to address quickly,” said city attorney Greg Janes. “We believe it’s imminently dangerous.”

Audriana Logan, another attorney for the city, said inspectors also found four bathrooms on the now-shuttered second floor, as well as toiletries, towels, shoes and clothing.

“A facility (bathroom) on the premises does not a residence make,” Sims said after the hearing. “A couch on the premises does not make it a living room.”

Photo taken during city inspection of R. Kelly's rented warehouse

The city on Tuesday released photos taken during an inspection Jan. 16 of the Near West Side warehouse being rented by R. Kelly. | Provided

Sims also criticized the city’s decision to seek an emergency motion to bar anyone inside the building until repairs are made.

“We do feel that this was a manufactured emergency,” Sims said. “There was no emergency here all along.”

Tuesday’s hearing came a day after Kelly’s deadline to pay more than $170,000 he owed in back rent, court and attorneys’ fees.

Jamie Burns, the attorney for Midwest Commercial Funding, the company that owns and is currently selling the property, did not respond when asked if Kelly had made good on the money owed. Sims referred the same rent question back to Burns.

A spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office — the agency that handles evictions in the county — said it had not received an eviction order for the property as of Tuesday morning.

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Photo taken during city inspection of R. Kelly's rented warehouse

The city on Tuesday released photos taken during an inspection Jan. 16 of the Near West Side warehouse being rented by R. Kelly. | Provided