The Code Enforcement Task Force has recently established a unit dedicated to investigating illegal apartments.
The Unit consists of Lieutenant Christopher Jewell of the Everett Fire Department, Building Inspector Martin Furtado, and Code Enforcement Inspectors Peter Sikora and Michael Mastrocola. Each member brings a specific expertise to the team, and the results are a testament to their hard work.
Illegal apartments generally consist of basement or attic units that are unsafe, and pose a danger to the inhabitants, as well as first responders. Other illegal units consist of houses subdivided into smaller apartments by illegally partitioning off and creating rooms without proper permitting, leading to dangerous and hazardous conditions. For instance, an owner may take an existing living room, and partition it, so that it becomes two or more bedrooms. These units will often times have dangerous makeshift kitchens, and keyed locks on the doors.
These illegal units can result in fire hazards related to issues from improper wiring to inadequate means of egress. Often times, these conditions remain dangerous. Many of these homes are owned by an absentee landlord, who does little to keep safe conditions.
A house that could comfortably fit 5 people now has a dozen or more occupants. Issues resulting from illegal housing can be overcrowded schools, increased sanitation cost, streets with too many vehicles to accommodate neighborhood parking, and traffic increases affecting the quality of life for all residents.
The evidence of an illegal apartment can be in the form of a tip form a resident, or a tenant complaint. There are other indicators as well. A property may have several mailboxes or several different names on the door. There may be an air conditioner in a window that indicates occupancy of a space not fit for occupation.
The Task Force goes out in the evening to follow up on information regarding illegal units, and inspect the properties. A large majority of the inspections result from consent of a tenant or owner. In a rare case, an administrative warrant is sought at Malden District Court for entry on the affidavit of Lieutenant Jewell.
Mayor DeMaria stated, “We want people to understand that this is a health and safety issue. One of our main concerns is that most of these units don’t provide for proper means of egress in the event of a fire, turning the unit into a fire trap, putting both residents and first responders at risk.”