Fines 'accumulating' for landlord

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BRATTLEBORO — A landlord is being fined $1,600 a day for failing to address health violations at units being rented out.

"Those are accumulating," Town Manager Peter Elwell said of the fines during a special Select Board meeting Tuesday.

Two weeks ago, the Brattleboro Select Board acting as the Board of Health adopted a health order that required William Hunter to cure violations at his rental properties at 48-50 Central St. and 6 Reynolds Drive within seven days.

Hunter previously received an injunction from Windham Superior Court, Civil division to stop an emergency eviction. But Judge Michael Kainen vacated the order after a hearing where Hunter told him "the town made clear that they are not requesting the tenants be out of the building while the work they want to be done is being done."

However, Elwell said during a re-inspection Dec. 5 where Hunter was present, "there was not much progress found there."

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors had been fixed prior to the board's health order. That prevented the town from seeking an emergency eviction order.

Elwell said electrical system repairs and other safety matters still need to be addressed for Hunter to abide by the order. Included in the list is removing materials "considered fuel for fire."

The next inspection is scheduled for Thursday. Elwell said without substantial progress, the town could file for an injunction from state civil court to order that corrective actions be taken by a certain date.

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For now, Hunter is being fined $800 per address. Elwell said there may come a point where tenants need assistance in relocating as part of enforcing an order.

Board member Daniel Quipp said the fine seems "pretty hefty." He wondered if lack of cash flow had prevented some of the work from happening in the first place.

"It's possible that that is at least a contributing factor for why correction action hasn't been taken," Elwell said, "but it's not a sufficient explanation."

Elwell said Hunter has been given notice of violations for months.

"And so we progressed to a very unusual stage here," Elwell said, noting that it is not uncommon for the town to identify the types of deficiencies seen at the properties, but it very rare that a ticket and fine do not end in resolution of the issues.

Select Board Chairwoman Brandie Starr said, "We look forward to further updates on this extremely important human rights issue."

In an email response to the Reformer, Hunter said he was unaware of the fines.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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