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Burlington pays evictee who often called police $30,000

December 19, 2017

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The city of Burlington has paid $30,000 and agreed to propose changes to its housing policy in a settlement reached with a tenant who was evicted from his apartment after he made numerous phone calls to police for assistance from 2014 through 2016.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the city in federal court last year on behalf of Joseph Montagno. The settlement was reached in late October and finalized Monday after both parties agreed to dismiss the suit.

“Mr. Montagno is thrilled to have won important changes to Burlington’s ordinances that will provide due process for tenants and protections for victims of crimes, ensuring that vulnerable people in Burlington will no longer lose their housing simply because they need police assistance,” said Jay Diaz, staff attorney for the ACLU of Vermont.

The city attorney did not immediately return an email or phone message seeking comment.

Montagno and other tenants called police, saying they were threatened by neighbors. After tracking the number of calls, the city deemed the tenants calling for help “public nuisances,” with Motagno labeled a “frequent caller,” the ACLU said.

City officials contacted the landlord and threatened that the landlord’s occupancy certificate would be revoked unless appropriate remedial action was taken. The landlord then evicted Montagno, who became homeless for several months, the ACLU said.

The city has paid Montagno $30,000 and agreed to introduce changes to an ordinance to the City Council.

The principles of the revised ordinance are that the city provide written notice to affected tenants when it communicates with a landlord about suspending or revoking the landlord’s occupancy certificate so they can understand and address the issues. The city also agrees that it will not encourage eviction by a landlord except as a last resort.

Montagno said he was grateful for the organizations and individuals who stood up for him.

“I also want to thank the city for agreeing to change. Burlington is my home and I care about it. I’m glad I could play a part in making it a little better,” he said in a statement provided by the ACLU.

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