Judge gives landlord one month to find new home for tenant

NORWAY — A building owner in Norway cited for unsafe conditions in his apartment building has a month to evict his tenants, a judge said Friday.

Leslie H. Dixon/Sun Journal

The owner of 168 Main St., Patrick McInnis, will be ordered to evict his tenants on Jan. 14 after Norway officials found numerous safety violations in the apartment building.

On Friday, Patrick McInnis, 70, of 168 Main St., said he was done contesting the town's filing to evict his tenants. The building was found to be unsafe by Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman, who found major electrical deficiencies, including smoke detectors hardwired together, switches not grounded, some wires seared and materials in the basement that prevented easy access to problem electrical boxes.

Justice Robert W. Clifford requested a second inspection of the building. Fire Chief Dennis Yates had helped and said he crawled in places Corey-Whitman couldn't access and found even more electrical violations.

The town's attorney, Ted Small, named other problems, including inadequate heating, oxygen and acetylene stored in an unsafe way, insufficient fire barriers and problems with plumbing fixtures.

“From the town's perspective, it's a public safety issue,” Small said.

McInnis said one of his tenants would be able to find a new place, but another tenant, a friend who was present in court Friday, suffered from physical ailments, didn't have much money and was worried about his ability to find a new home.

While the man could live in a spare room in McInnis' unit without paying rent, he said McInnis' smoking would make it impossible for him to live there.

Clifford said he would wait until the next civil court day, Jan. 14, before enacting an eviction of the building so that McInnis' tenant would have time to find a new home. For now, McInnis can remain in the building but can't rent out units.


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ERNEST LABBE's picture

Well Licia you might be wrong

Well Licia you might be wrong. Just this past saturday night (12/15/2012) at roughly 10:30 the Norway Fire Dept and 4 other departments resonded to that very house becauswe the house was full of smoke. Fortunatly it wasn't on fire. However had it been later at night the owner and tenant very well could have died in the building. Yes most people who die in a fire don't die from getting burned, the smoke kills them long before the flames.

Perhaps you should learn the facts about something before you start criticizing someone.

 's picture

Who's criticizing whom?

(I posted a reply to Ernest, but I can't find it on the page, so here's another attempt.)

I would be glad to learn any facts that are relevant to this case. It has all the appearance of cases I have become aware of in other towns, where town officials have picked on someone who happens to be unpopular with his neighbors, and have ignored other property owners with violations that are just as bad. I continue to think there should be more concern about what happens to the people who voluntarily chose to live there--just kicking them out doesn't make them any safer.

If the house was filled with smoke last night, but there was no fire, that isn't relevant to a case based on fire codes. You don't say what caused the smoke--probably you don't know. Surely you aren't maintaining that this property owner is just a bad guy, and that's why there was smoke in his house, and anything done against him and his tenants is therefore right? There might be smoke in my house some day, or in yours.

ERNEST LABBE's picture

Here are a few facts

Here are a few facts: This has been an ongoing issue since the Advertiser-Democrat broke a story about section eight housing last year.I did not realize that you are not from the area and therefore had not seen the article in the past two months where Justice Clifford gave this man two months to come into compliance. Therefore you probably didn't see pictures of the wiring that hopefully you would not allow in a doghouse. Also this house has no neighbors as such, there is a business on one side and a Doctor on the other. The area across from the house all belongs to Stephens Memorial Hospital. The exterior of the house doesn't look all that bad, however thats where any beauty stops.

For a year and a half the town has been trying to get this actor to clean up his act to no avail. He is being treated no different that the other property renters that lost their section eight incomes. I am not certain that this property was section eight funded however the town has had it with sub-standard housing.

A search of state records could enlighten you on the type of person they are dealing with. Hopefully you will know where to search.

 's picture

It's somebody's home

Ernest, you say that the house doesn't look bad from the outside, and I'd agree. You don't say what prompted town officials to start investigating the place; probably you don't know, because they usually don't publicize that fact. But something triggered it. When I said it may be that neighbors complained, I don't mean necessarily the next door neighbors or across the street. We're looking at a town; there could be any number of people in that town who don't like Patrick McInnis for any number of reasons.

I don't understand the social dynamic that causes some people to assume, any time someone gets in trouble with officials, that that person is a bad guy acting from the worst motives, and to think the worst about him and everything he does. Expressions like "this actor" and "the type of person they are dealing with," show that you are disposed to dislike him even though he probably never did you any harm. What I see is that this is an elderly man who probably can't afford the changes that the officials are demanding. They don't pick on rich people!

Meanwhile there is at least one person who would prefer just to go on living there and who has health problems which may make it difficult for him to move. Does anyone care about what happens to him? That's a rhetorical question, as I am not going to keep coming back to this page. The article is now two days old. If you need to have the last word, you can have it.

 's picture

Raises questions

This looks like many cases I have seen where town officials are much more interested in leaning on a property owner than they are in the needs of the people whom they are about to render homeless. It is always possible to find violations if one crawls around enough, and probably most of the residences in the town have such violations. I don't know the real reasons why officials are down on McInnnis, but my best guess is that he has a neighbor or neighbors who don't like him.

The tenant with health problems who could live rent free in a "spare room" if it weren't for the landlord's smoking habit--why shouldn't he instead live in whatever room he has been comfortable in? Because it isn't safe? Don't kid me. Nothing's safe, but homelessness is far less safe than living in a imperfect building.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

The "real reasons" are stated clearly........

..........in this article, if you read it. There are laws that clearly say if you want to rent units, they must meet codes. This slumlord has not met those requirements. He will gladly take the rent money from people but will not maintain his property. Shut him down before renters are injured or worse. Sounds like a fire trap to me. An accident just waiting to happen.

 's picture

Something motivated this specific attack

Joanne, I like your pussycat. But your reasoning isn't convincing. Probably half the buildings in town fail to meet the codes in some respects; there must be a reason why town officials picked on this particular guy and started crawling all over his house looking for violations. The article doesn't tell us what that reason is, because of course the officials aren't going to publicize it. But if experience in other towns of my acquaintance is any guide, this usually happens when someone complains about a neighbor. Why is one neighbor complained about while another, with perhaps as many violations, isn't complained about? Well, probably the reason has nothing to do with which neighbor had the worst violations. It's more likely to be about the personal feelings of the complainer toward the complainee. Laws of this sort are enforced selectively, and nobody will admit to the basis of the selection.

I would like to see some concern shown as to what happens to the tenants when they are forced out of a building where they voluntarily chose to live. But apparently there are no laws dealing with that although surely it is just as important as whether the building meets all the safety codes. So there are no pressures on the town officials to deal with that need, which affects the safety of individuals more than the codes do.

You don't indicate your basis for calling the property owner in this case a "slumlord." Do you know this man personally? or is that just your kneejerk reaction to a story of this sort.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Did you read the Advertiser?

Last year there were pictures of the wireing, plumbing, etc. that would curl your hair. Would you want to live in a deathtrap such as this? Anyone who rents unsafe dwellings is a slumlord. Fact.

 's picture

Merry Christmas

Joanne, it doesn't matter whether or not I would want to live in Patrick McInnis's building. The point is that somebody does want to live there, and nobody has given me a sufficient reason why that person should be kicked out of his home.

Calling a person a "slumlord" is rhetoric, not fact, and it's a very ugly tactic. The guy would almost certainly prefer to make the improvements in his property that the officials demanded, if he had the money and/or the knowhow. Maine is full of people who just can't afford to make extensive changes in their properties, and I guess you would just call them names and throw them all out onto the street. The codes are constantly changing, and the state would never have been settled if people like you had had their way. Instead of attacking someone who is unfortunate, try giving your attention to something that might help somebody.

As I say in my last reply to Ernest Labbe, I won't be coming back to this page, since the article is two days old, and probably nobody is reading it except you and me and Ernest.


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