Concerns about rental units aired

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

Should the Bridgton Board of Selectmen appoint a committee to research and craft regulations that residents could enact to require local landlords to allow inspections of their rental properties?

The Bridgton Planning Board heard a presentation this week from a landlord regarding his concerns about "the conditions of some rental units in Bridgton and the lack of enforceable standards."

"There are standards which must be met if landlords are renting to state-assisted tenants," Tony Mallon said, in his letter to the planning board that he read aloud July 10. "The standards are reasonable and enforceable. Inspections are called for prior to allowing tenants to occupy the rental units, and on an annual basis after that."

"Something needs to be done"

Mallon, who said he primarily owns rental properties in Naples, stated, "Something needs to be done. I, as a landlord for more years than I care to admit to, have looked at multifamily buildings in Bridgton and have been horrified at the conditions some families are living in."

"At one point, I spoke to then Police Chief Dave Lyons and the then fire chief about my concerns," Mallon said further. "It was after a woman who, in order to be removed to the hospital, had to be taken out a third floor window, once the window was removed. Everybody understood the concern, everybody was busy and nothing changed."

Mallon then told the planning board members he believes "the quality (of rental units in Bridgton) is about as bad as it gets and the conditions for people living in them is dangerous."

"I don't like people (landlords) who get away with stacking people in these (apartment) buildings," Mallon said. He noted that, due to the poor conditions at some of the rental properties in Bridgton, "If something does happen in one of these buildings, it could come back on the town."

Saying the enforcement of Section 8 regulations was "taken over by the State of Maine (Housing Authority) on June 1," Mallon held up a booklet entitled "A Good Place to Live" put out by HUD that details the required elements a rental unit must have in order to pass inspection, as well as what a tenant should consider when looking for a unit.

Mallon said he hopes an initiative will be undertaken "if Bridgton wants to enforce something like this that I think is desperately needed."

"It has been terrible, seeing some of these pictures in the paper," said Bridgton Planning Board member Deanna "Dee" Miller of recent newspaper articles highlighting the questionable conditions of certain rental properties here. "I, personally, am in favor of a property maintenance code that would authorize someone to go onto a property to inspect it," Miller said. "I've also been told that if more regular fire inspection is undertaken, the fire inspector could relay some other (code) violations" to the proper authority.

Bridgton Fire Chief Glen Garland responded to Miller's remarks, saying, "We're dealing with complaints and things we become aware of, either on a fire call or if a tenant makes us aware of something."

The fire chief went on to say that a part-time fire inspector position is included in the budget approved for 2012–2013, but that "it has not been approved by the selectmen and hired."

Garland said the new fire inspector job description calls for eight hours per week, or one day per week, "on a per diem basis to do fire prevention inspections."

Bridgton Planning Board Chairman Steve Collins and board members Brian Thomas and Fred Packard all told Mallon that he should make his presentation to the Bridgton Board of Selectmen which has enforcement authority.

"I know a lot of people have been going before the selectmen" about the conditions of rental properties in Bridgton, Thomas said.

"The (Bridgton) Community Crime Watch has formed a committee, and I believe they are looking at the International Property Maintenance Code that would dovetail with other codes (in place)," Garland stated.

"I hate to bring this up," said Bridgton Code Enforcement Officer Rob Baker July 10, "but the Town of Norway has an apartment ordinance where, before a landlord can rent or lease an apartment, there is a checklist to go through and a $25 per apartment fee or they can be put on a list and the inspections are done annually or every two years."

Mallon said that, regardless of what enforcement mechanism or authority is used, he feels the enactment of regulations regarding the proper conditions for rental properties would make sure "that no matter what uniform they're wearing" an inspection would make landlords "sit up and pay attention."

"It's as fair to the landlord, as it is to the tenant," Mallon stated.

Chairman Collins cited a couple of recent examples where residents stepped forward due to their concerns over two separate issues — one on large-scale groundwater extraction and the other on a proposed rock quarry.

"When some citizens were worried about the Poland Spring octopus, the selectmen appointed a committee and it worked very well — they did a diligent job," said Collins. "They did the same thing when the quarry came up."

"And, you ask rhetorically, whose hands to put the (HUD booklet and other) documents in — and that would be you (Mallon)," Collins said. "Your pitch is so straightforward and so simple and so easy to grasp — I can see a committee being formed to generate some language, even if it's that (HUD) document."

"You've impressed us with the clarity of your presentation," said Collins.

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