Problem Leominster Landlord Feeling the Heat

September 1, 2018
Problem Leominster Landlord Feeling the Heat

Julie Sarasty shows the mold below a sink in her apartment at 64 Viscoloid Ave. in Leominster in 2017. She struggled to get help from the landlord, David Murphy. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE FILE PHOTO Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LEOMINSTER -- City health officials have adopted a more aggressive strategy in enforcing health code violations at one of the city’s most problematic apartment complexes.

“Right now, we spend more time on him than any other property owner in the city,” Health Director Christopher Knuth said of David Murphy, owner of a three-building complex at the corner of Johnson Street and Viscoloid Avenue.

The health issues at Murphy’s property made the agenda at this week’s Board of Health meeting after the word “slumlord” was burned into the grass outside one of his buildings earlier this month.

Knuth said the board was updated on recent violations lodged against Murphy, which he said have numbered in the dozens this year, and on the new method the city has employed to force Murphy to obey health codes.

In past years, Knuth said the city would grant property owners extensions to the time allotted to address health code violations. This practice has now been suspended in Murphy’s case.

“They’re taking him straight to court when he doesn’t comply with the order. We’re not giving him a second chance,” he said. “The judges are getting used to seeing this guy every Friday.”

This new practice has been utilized for several months now and Board of Health member Wendy Wiiks said it has led to some positive results.

“Apart from the vandalism, there had been issues with the dumpster. They’re making progress with the trash that had been lying around,” she said. “They’re doing some of the basics like making sure the dumpster is being emptied every week.”

When reached for comment Thursday, Murphy said he is also working to make sure that violations at his apartments are addressed in a more timely manner.

“We are trying to do a different strategy as well,” he said. “Admittedly, we haven’t turned work orders around quick enough and we’re trying to resolve that right now.”

Murphy said he has since replaced a former maintenance worker, whom he said the Board of Health described as not spending enough time at the properties, and has also increased rents to bring in more money for repairs.

Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53.

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