Heating issues plague Norway tenants

NORWAY — A series of problems left tenants in subsidized housing at 4 Hazen St. with only intermittent heat over an 11-day period this month.

The heat first stopped working on the night of Thursday, Dec. 8, when the furnace ran out of oil, tenants said.

"This happens at least a couple of times every winter," Darlene Paine, a first-floor tenant, said. "We would go three to seven days without heat."

Justine and Everett Gray, who rent the second floor of the building, said the heat has gone out three times in the six weeks or so since they've been living there.

"It's difficult, because I leave the apartment for work at 5:30 in the morning, and I have to shower before I leave," Justine said. "If we have no hot water, I have to go to family to take a shower in the morning."

The building is owned by Vincent Marcisso, who does business as Western Highlands LLC.

Over a six-day period, Marcisso's maintenance man, Sam Salley, and the Grays put five or 10 gallons of oil at a time into the tank in an effort to get by until Wednesday, Dec. 14, when an oil delivery was scheduled. The Grays said that during this period the heat was generally working in the evening, but not during the day.

The Grays and Paine said they took steps to manage the cold.

The Grays partitioned off a section of their apartment and used electric heaters to maintain a livable temperature. They also sent their 4-year-old daughter to live elsewhere for a short time.

Downstairs, Paine was using her oven to heat her apartment.

"We've been through this for the past two years," she said. "I've had pneumonia both times. The last time I battled it for six months."

Paine said she made calls to Norway Code Enforcement Officer Joelle Corey-Whitman, other town officials, Pine Tree Legal Services and MaineHousing, the program that oversees her Section 8 subsidized housing voucher. She asked them to get Marcisso to add a substantial amount of oil to the furnace.

A MaineHousing representative said she contacted Marcisso to ask him to address the problem, although the organization cannot legally compel him to do so.

"We can inform the landlord of what their legal responsibilities are," MaineHousing inspector Amanda Bartlett said. She said she spoke to multiple tenants at 4 Hazen St.

"On Tuesday, we confirmed that there was heat in the building," Bartlett said. "They ran out of oil again on Wednesday."

The oil delivery that was supposed to end the problem instead revealed a new one. The furnace didn't work.

Over the next few days, Marcisso said he did everything possible to get the furnace fixed, calling in a contractor.

Marcisso said that part of the problem is that furnace repairmen are in high demand at this time of year.

"When I found out things were wrong, I addressed them immediately," he said. "Because I've had to hire subcontractors, I've had to go on their schedule."

Over the weekend of Dec. 17, the furnace was up and running. The Grays were receiving heat, but not Paine.

Salley came Saturday, Dec. 17, to work on the problem and got the furnace working temporarily. He told Paine that if she had any other problems, he would call a repairman to address it on Monday.

She said that on Saturday night it stopped working again, and she spent more days using her oven for heat.

Outside temperatures dipped to a low of 3 degrees.

On the afternoon of Monday, Dec. 19, 11 days after the oil tank first ran out of oil, a furnace repairman from KMM Heating fixed the problem, Paine said.

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 's picture

Previous Tenant

I was a previous tenant for Mr Marcisso. Although I do not remember the exact address, it is the building on the corner of Pearl and Cottage street. This apartment also passed Avesta Housing standards. I had mold in my apartment, single pain windows, and many cold nights without heat. A few calls and letters with no response from Mr Marcisso led me to believe nothing would be done. Fearful I would have to move if I contacted Avesta, I kept quiet. I had a year lease which I completed, 2008-2009, and thankfully was able to transfer out of that county and away from that mess. I definitely left that apartment in better condition than I received it, gave Mr Marcisso a forwarding address, and was not surprised when I did not receive my deposit back. I did not pursue as I moved out of state and did not have the funding to attempt such a feat. I know Mr Marcisso counts on that. Taking advantage of the population that has the least ability to defend itself. Nice guy...
Where I live now is beautiful, anything I need done in my unit is addressed with in a day courteously and quickly. It is disgusting what 'Avesta" approves habitable, and unfortunately the many of the clients they serve are at their mercy for many reasons. Ill let you ponder on that...

 's picture

11 days with 'intermittent

11 days with 'intermittent heat' in December in Maine is inexcusable! You can bet if it was Mr Marcisso's home and family the issue would have been fixed correctly the 1st time!

JOHN PAINTER's picture

Is there a problem at MSHA?

While I certainly understand MSHA wanting to work with and develop house options for Mainers with owners, they do have obligations in administration of federal funds, to assure both parties abide by HUD rules. The response from MSHA representative didn't make sense, hopefully they were misquoted, this is a pretty clear violation by the owner of the HQS (thermal environment requirement, possibly Access too since the implied habitability is in question if it's that cold) which either the local PHA or certainly MSHA is absolutely supposed to vigorously remedy with the owner i.e. rent can be withheld, the owner can be removed as a vendor, lost rent during in habitability recovered. I hope the owner addresses the deficiencies he has accepted rent for and the tenants receive the housing they signed their rental agreement for.


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