GROTON -- The Board of Health and an out-of-town landlord reached an amicable agreement when the latter decided to meet with health agent Ira Grossman on outstanding issues in one of three units he rents out at 88 Pleasant St.
According to Grossman, he has been after owner David Whiting for months to address housing code violations at his property in town.
At the board's meeting May 20, Grossman said the property in general and one of the apartments in particular have a number of violations, some minor but a few serious. The latter include a fire escape judged unsafe, ceiling height and illegal removal of asbestos.
Grossman said the violations were supposed to be addressed before the apartments concerned could be rented out but all three units are currently occupied.
After an initial inspection of the property, continued Grossman, a certified letter was sent to Whiting notifying him of the violations but it was never acknowledged. A second inspection followed as well as another letter of notification, but again, he said, the owner was inaccessible.
That was not the case at the board's meeting of May 20 when Whiting appeared in person to defend his actions.
Whiting explained his belief that because there was no change in use at the property (the units were offered for rent before he bought it), conditions at the building, meeting as they did older housing codes, were grandfathered and that he had no obligation to upgrade them.
In reply, Grossman said when it comes to rental units, the law is more strict than with owner-occupied buildings. Unless the owner can win an exemption from the building inspector, the property has to be brought into compliance with the town's housing code.
Whiting, who lives in New Hampshire, appeared late for the 7:30 p.m. public hearing, and so was not present earlier in the meeting when Grossman recommended that the board condemn the property in order to "shake (the owner) up a bit" and force him to respond to the violations.
In his defense, Whiting claimed that the fire escape was not dangerous.
"They're perfectly working stairs," he insisted. "There's nothing unacceptable about them.
"At this point in time," concluded Whiting, "everything's been addressed."
"No one's trying to ruin your life," said board member Susan Horowitz. "But you're on the radar."
The hearing ended with Whiting agreeing to meet with Grossman to discuss outstanding concerns and what he is willing to do to solve them.