Problem properties discussed

On January 30, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times


By Harry Kane

Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente recently proposed a bill to the Board of Aldermen that suggests a solution to problem properties.

Lafuente wants increased fines until such time that the properties’ issues have been rectified.

Complaints over the years concerning absentee landlords, who are not taking care of their properties, have caused residents to offer their grievances to Alderman Lafuente.

Dilapidated buildings with overgrown areas and heaps of trash has repeatedly caused some properties to be the focus of community frustration.

“It’s just ridiculous what’s going on with some of these absentee landlords,” said Lafuente.

In order to rid the city of the problem properties Lafuente recently put forward the blueprint of a new ordinance to make Somerville safer and cleaner.

The primary issue is safety. If the property is unsafe, and there are complaints, Lafuente suggests police involvement.

“If there’s a problem property we should be able to place a police detail in front of that property to protect the rest of the neighbors,” explained Lafuente.

To encourage a rapid response, the cost of the police detail ($40 an hour) will then be forwarded to the landlord, according to the Alderman’s plan.

If the landlord is charged the fees associated with having a 24-hour cycle police detail, the landlord should act quickly to resolve the problem.

However, if it were merely a cleanliness concern, the new ordinance might only involve fines.

“In other words, they [landlords] are going to show up more frequently and know what’s going on, as opposed to just getting a check in the mail,” he said.

Other cities such as Boston, Quincy and Woburn have instituted similar methods to help safeguard the community, according to the alderman.

According to Lafuente, there are many chronic offenders in Somerville and when the landlord is not being responsible, and not managing his or her property, and checking out whom they are leasing to, it becomes a problem property.

“It’s disrupting and terrorizing the neighborhood,” said Lafuente.

The bill will be discussed among police and elected officials in the Somerville Legislative Matters Committee on Feb. 5 at 6 p.m.

“Once we have concluded the hearing and have come up with a definition for this ordinance, I think it is going to change our neighborhoods drastically,” said Lafuente.


25 Responses to “Problem properties discussed”

  1. Ray Spitzer says:

    “terrorizing the neighborhood”

    Oh my, the terror!

  2. This, along with Alderman Trane’s noise ordinance, should really put negligent absentee landlords on notice and have a significant impact on Somerville residents.

  3. Joe Lynch says:

    In addition to addressing the sometimes chronic problems handed to us by absentee landlords, I ask that we begin a crackdown on illegal/non permitted apartments. No matter who owns the property.

  4. j connelly says:

    Yes Joe Lynch, excellent suggestion and our public officials should move on it before a disaster occurs that will come back to bite and embarass the city. The problem with this city is it bends the rules for city hall “buddies” and selectively enforces rules on others. They went after the Dilboy post and then went to change rules for others…Ah only in Somerville!

  5. A Moore says:

    Speaking of trash, what’s up with the trash removal. I have a 2 family and we put out 2 to 3 bags in a barrel. Truck comes down pulls out the bags, spends time feeling them up, leaves 2 takes one. Big recycle bin next to the trash filled to the top. At this rate we will have a yard full of trash. I don’t know what they were looking for. Put yellow stickers on about composting. And actually we do compost also. I let it go as I don’t want to do things when angry, almost forgot about it until wife asked why we had so much this week. This city just gets wierder.

  6. henry says:

    can we get another picture of this alderman? looks like he’s laughing at us!

  7. Phil says:

    This sounds great, so long as landlords have the power to kick out problem tenants. That is tough in this state. However, obviously some of these landlords aren’t even lifting a finger to do things within their power.

    Also Joe, why? That doesn’t seem like a problem to me to anyone other than the person who voluntarily chooses to rent an apartment and take the risk of not having 2 means of egress. Please specify in what way it is a public problem.

  8. amen says:

    “not checking on who they’re leasing to” ??? are we going to start checking who’s renting/leasing homes or apts. not sure what this comment means, but would love to know.

  9. Blood Hound says:

    Knocked and pulled three walls built a monster. Then said **** you, who is this? you fill in the blank. A phony then a phony now.

  10. At Phil, I wonder if the person renting the apartment is aware they need to have two means of egress? Just because an apartment is available, doesn’t mean it’s legal.

  11. j connelly says:

    What you have to remember is…..They say that “You can only answer to one master”
    So no matter what the rules are….the underlings (like Dept. Heads) can only answer to their one Master (and bigtime his ego leads him to believe that he is).
    Though the underlings must remember…the their true boss is…the Taxpayers…thus they too can be fired, indicted, etc…

  12. A. Moore says:

    This city does not have a lot of illegal apartments. Very few and far between here. What you have more of is a large amount of people in one apartment. I find Belmont has more illegal apartments than we do here. Going back 30 to 40 years ago there were quite a few here. Maybe it is just harder to get away with today. I am not aware of any around today.

  13. Phil says:

    Whether a person “needs” to have two means of egress, or 3 or 4 or 5, should be up to the individual. If he/she wants to exchange a higher risk for lower rent, that should be their choice.

  14. Jackie Velos says:

    I disagree with this. My landlord is a total absentee, but that was made clear from the beginning. She told me that the rent would be quite low because she would not be doing any nonessential work. If something nonessential breaks (e.g., door handle), I have to fix it. I’m afraid that if all these landlords re forced to pay more, then a lot of tenants won’t be able to live in Somerville anymore.

  15. j. connelly says:

    The means of “egress” is by LAW via the FIRE CODES, NOT AT THE WILL of the landlord or tenant.
    Couple of years back a young woman from Tufts died in a fire due to lack of proper “egress”
    The “landlord is in violation if they are renting and do not comply with the codes. The city’s Inspectional Services is supposed to be on top of this stuff so it does not exist.

  16. A Moore says:

    They can’t be on top of things they are not aware of. Egress exits are as far as I know having been in many homes here is okay except for those using these as storage areas. That is more common than it should be. The only area I have concerns for in that respect is third floor bedrooms not having a second means of egress. I Know the houses are built that way but I awlays considered that a little scary. I don’t believe there are any laws concerning those.

  17. j connelly says:

    Life Safety should be top priority! If they can be violating your rights and trespassing on your property to check out your rubbish barrels and cite you with a fine/ticket if the barrels are not covered, they certainly better be on top of checking on the safety issue like proper exits in rental units.

    Years back in our neighborhood a guy who was politically connected and worked for a non city governmental agency put an illegal addition (No permits) on the rear of his house so he could rent out to Tufts students. The lady next store mentioned she was never contacted as an abutter. He blew her off.

    Never piss a woman off. When she was done, not only was the no permit issue addressed but the city forced him to add rear stairs for the other floors to be in compliance with means of “egress”. He ended up selling the house after the corrections were made.

  18. A. Moore says:

    You have to be pretty dumb to build an addition without a permit to begin with. Most of the inspectors here are pretty decent and understanding and many from the past were too. They usually work with you. There are exceptions. You would be surprised at how many homes I go into with smoke alarms open with batteries missing hanging from the ceiling. Not so much homeowners as much as tenants. In this day and age you would think people would know better. And some even remove the electric ones from the ceiling because they go off. I seem to recall year ago we used to have fire inspections or safety inspections, either that or I am having a senior vacation.

  19. A. Moore brings up a good point. Should this ordinance be adopted, a consistent inspection/enforcement system needs to be included.

  20. A. Moore says:

    That’s a tough one because people won’t want to have their houses inspected. Problem is that if the house next door to me has one of these problems that could cause harm to me and my family. Even though it is not my job I point out safety issues to my customers in the even they are not aware of it or do not know. Especially paying customers. The fire department does come down and inspect after we install the new co2 and smoke alarms. It’s after they leave when people dismantle them. Another thing are stair railings not properly installed with returns on them. Where the end of the railing is mitered into the wall. Many elderly catch their robes on the end of open railings and go down the stairs. Lots of those in Somerville. Many still have the double key locks where you need a key to get out the door. All these things are cheaper to fix than a doctor visit.

  21. Harry says:

    You want to give THIS city more power to tax and fine residents and property owners? Who decides what is a “clean” property and “unsafe” property? The same imbecile that was going around throwing $50 fines around like a drunken sailor?

  22. j connelly says:

    That’s the problem with many municipalities including Somerville. They pass many ordinances without the inclusion of funding to enforce said ordinances. Thus you end up getting selecive enforcement, they go after the ones they like at the time but many other ordinances are forgotten and never addressed, so if they are not going to enforce them. why have them.

    Alderman Trane saw the increase in Trucks serving meals on the streets and addressed issues ref to ordinances on same (public health inspection, etc) to ensure safety and other concerns for the citizens.

    There are ordinances for the rubbish, like it is illegal for people to come and remove recyclables from your rubbish containers as the whole purpose of recycling is to bring monetary income to the city by recycling.
    Yet week after week many people come and go through peoples rubbish barrels including people who illegally [trespass] enter peoples backyards the night before to go through your barrels.

    We had one guy come into our neighborhhood who was observed pulling small pieces of papers that contained occupants personal information from rubbish bags….Hello????? Identity theft come to mind???

    Fortunately the Somerville Police saw and questiioned the man and we have not seen him again.

  23. j connelly says:

    Landlords should have written leases/agreements with the tenants that address issues such as tampering with smoke alarms etc., that provide fines on those tenants who do so and eviction if it is a repeated occurence.

  24. A. Moore says:

    I always shred my personal stuff anyway. I am not trusting. My objection with the trash pickers was the blocking of the streets with a ton of bags on their wagon. Which the wagon is also theft. I think they are over $300 if I am not mistaken. Many people consider the smoke alarms overkill and that they know when there is a fire as they will smell it and escape. Yes, we are raising intelligant people. I have alarms inside bedroom and outside in the hallway. Fire inspector asked why so many. I sad look where they are made, I am not trusting those 100%. It’s cheap protection. I had a tour many years ago at the Shriner’s burn center. That was a wakeup call. Sawa former city workers wife got burned and it took her a good 2 years before she was able to even come home. No thanks, I want an easier way out.

  25. j connelly says:

    I wrote Congressman Capuano and our new Senator Warren ref to all the cataogs we receive via mail. The marketing industry, [similar to the Wall St Scumballs], on those catalogs have ID info on the rear cover, and also on the inside order form enclosed in the catalogs.

    Those forms have “code” numbers which are used to identify the customer, account #s, etc. Thus valuable info to Identity Thieves.

    I asked that this personal info no longer be allowed on/in these catalogs.

    So far I have heard from Congressman Capuano who will be addressing it.

    Our New “Senior”, “Consumer Supporting” Senator Warren from Hahvud,
    still have not heard a word. Do you think she is too busy moonlighting at Hahvud for that 1 class a week/$360K salary?????

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