Rental inspection program in full swing

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BRATTLEBORO — Since the town of Brattleboro instituted its rental inspection program in late July, members of the Brattleboro Fire Department have visited 26 buildings and inspected 135 units.

"It's going well," said Assistant Fire Chief Leonard Howard, who is also the town's health officer. "Everything so far has been very positive and we haven't found anything unusual."

On Thursday morning, Howard and firefighter Matt Casabona visited a three-unit home on High Street, checking fire extinguishers, wiring and junction boxes, smoke detectors and emergency exits.

The building used to house the law office of Judge Ralph Chapman, said Dr. Marcy Jones, who now owns the building with his wife, Deedee.

"We've lived in Brattleboro since 1983," said Jones, a retired chiropractic orthopedist who had an office at 205 Main St. "We lived in this building on the second floor."

When he and his wife moved out in 1988, they converted the third floor into a third apartment. They now live on Tyler Hill Road and own two rental properties in Grafton.

Deedee Jones said they charge a little bit more than market rate for their apartments.

"But we've been told by some that we should charge more," said Dr. Jones, with a laugh. "But we like our tenants and don't want to raise the rent."

During the inspection of the High Street building, Casabona spoke to the property owners, Dr. Marcy Jones and his wife, Deedee, about minor issues, such as making sure the furnace has three feet of clearance on all sides and the fire extinguishers are mounted on the wall in areas that are easily accessible.

Casabona said landlords should inspect the fire extinguishers each year and bring them to a professional every five years for an official inspection. The extinguishers also need to be ABC rated for all types of fires.

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The town charges building owners $75 per unit inspection, which will happen every four years.

"In the long run, it's going to benefit the property owners," said Howard. "They're going to know that we will be here every four years. It helps them stay on top of things. Before, we conducted inspections every seven to 10 years, and a lot of stuff can accumulate in that time frame."

The inspectors use a checklist, from which they create a report that is sent to the property owners, he said.

"If they're are things that need to be fixed, we conduct a follow-up in 30 to 45 days," said Howard.

June Clark, who has rented from the Joneses for two years, said she loves the neighborhood, though she does see a lot of foot traffic passing through, which she believes is connected to drug activity in Brattleboro.

"It's the same people over and over," she said. "It's sad and disturbing, because this is a very nice family neighborhood and you have to be careful."

Property owners can wait to be notified by Howard or they can give him a call at 254-4831 if they'd like an inspection added to his schedule.

As part of the inspection program, the town is also creating a registry of rental units, said Howard.

"We have 246 buildings registered so far," he said. It is estimated that there are approximately 3,000 rental units in the town.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.


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