Mark Hayward's latest story on the continuing saga at 405 Manchester St. appears in today's Union Leader. Some highlights:
No pipes means no water - and this comes AFTER the tenants had made a downpayment on the water bill. A bill that was not paid by the landlord. Water was included in their rent. Now some of the tenants are buying new pipe and hoping to get the water on today.
However, the city may close the property sooner. Community Development Commissioner Leon LaFreniere said city lawyers are working with Schaefer’s local attorney to go to court and ask a judge to secure the property.
The City would like this story to go away, as quickly as possible. The City does not want to have a big discussion about deteriorating buildings, the need for new housing codes and more stringent enforcement.
Paul Schaefer, the disappearing landlord, bought 405 Manchester St. in October 2005. In November 2005, he was issued a Certificate of Compliance. That CoC was revoked on July 20, 2006 because of fire alarm system failure. It was reinstated shortly afterward. That same CoC expired on September 22, 2008. The next CoC was issued on June 2, 2011. It took nearly 3 years for Schaefer to "fix" the 95 violations cited by the housing inspectors.
The violations included water stained ceilings and water damaged floors in many of the apartments. The ceilings and floors may have been fixed - but nowhere was there any mention of fixing the actual leaks. Leaking pipes in an old wooden building are going to cause ongoing deterioration, as well as providing a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, rodents, and insect infestation.
It seems there is no real enforced time limit for making the necessary repairs, even though the building isn't supposed to be rented out without a CoC in place. The code enforcement department is woefully understaffed and underfunded. Lowell, MA has 11 housing inspectors. Manchester currently has 4.
The people living at 405 are living in a terrible situation. The building is a mess. One man's windows blow out if the wind blows too hard. He has to tape them to the frame from the inside. There are a number of broken windows in the building. The place is infested with bedbugs, the mailboxes don't lock, doors don't close properly, and the yard is full of trash.
Given the precarious legal position these folks are in, and with the City desperate to close this place down, I worry that they may make an investment in the building and still wind up out on the street.
This is no way for people to be living. Not in the 21st century in the wealthiest country in the world.