Council Agrees to Further Work on Changes to Habitability Ordinance

Despite pleas from City officials to reinstate the former apartment inspection ordinance, the Council agreed on Monday night to keep the matter on the table and work on some changes.

That came after the matter went through several twists and turns over the past few weeks, with Councilor Rosa DiFlorio calling for reconsideration of the revised ordinance after it was defeated last week.

“I live here with the people in Everett and there are people who live here who don’t like this,” said Councilor Michael Marchese, who initiated the change several weeks ago. “I get the calls and I hear the complaints. We just want to give the landlords a little protection so they don’t get hit with multiple $1,500 fines and then they lose the property. This can be worked on.”

Marchese began the issue several weeks ago when he won support of the Council to change the long-standing Habitability Ordinance so that inspections were voluntary, and not mandatory. The mandatory inspections had been in place since 2006, and City officials have said many times in the last few weeks that they have headed off many tragedies.

Marchese’s support of the ordinance change, however, eroded between meetings, and the second vote to enact it lost. However, Councilor DiFlorio filed for reconsideration and the matter was back on Monday’s agenda.

“There are two sides to every story,” she said. “I don’t want to tie the City’s enforcement hands, but I brought it back to us because there are parts of this that are good. I hope we can work on this to make some changes.”

Councilor Michael McLaughlin said that after some thought over the past week, he also believes there could be some improvements made.

All of that came after four City officials testified as to how important the habitability inspections of apartments are for the City.

Building Inspector Jim Soper said he believes inspections have saved lives, including at the major fire last summer on Morris Street – where inspectors uncovered major violations just days before the fire.

“I think it’s important we don’t take this ordinance change lightly,” he said. “When something is voluntary, if there is time or money involved, people will be deterred from doing it.”

“This is very important to this community,” he continued. “People who come into this community and rent these apartments may have no idea what is safe and what isn’t in regards to building codes. We’re here to help them. Please let us do it.”

Fire Chief Tony Carli said they have never received a complaint about the inspection system, and he also said it has streamlined the process.

“I don’t think landlords will call us for inspections if not compelled to do so,” he said.

Police Chief Steve Mazzie also testified in favor of the ordinance to remain unchanged.

The matter will go before the Council at its next meeting in two weeks.

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