hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

March 21, 2013

City seeks public's help finding bad buildings

Court action planned to force cleanups, repairs

By Bill Cantwell
Staff Writer

---- — The city is hunting for buildings that are safety traps for children and eyesores for neighborhoods.

Officials are asking the public’s help in finding deteriorated and abandoned properties. They are asking people who know of such buildings to call the city’s Health and Inspectional Services Department.

Haverhill plans to take action on landlords who fail to properly maintain their properties, Mayor James Fiorentini said.

He said it will be a continuation of a program which has resulted in several residential buildings being renovated or eyed for repairs.

The program works like this: A team of city code enforcement officers visits the property to list problems with the building. The team includes representatives of the fire, health, building, inspectional services, and community development departments. The team then reports the property to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Abandoned Housing Initiative program.

The city and attorney general bring the delinquent owners to the Northeast Housing Court. A property receiver is appointed by the court to rectify the health, safety and building code violations at the property. Once the repairs are made, the building can be sold.

The mayor said it costs the city nothing to participate in the program. The state covers all expenses, he said.

“We are utilizing a tool that will provide for the rehabilitation of these properties without a cost to the city or liability,’’ Fiorentini said.

The city’s first attempt to use the program targeted a building at 69 5th Ave. in the Acre neighborhood. Neighbors of the property repeatedly complained to the city about overgrowth and fallen trees, and broken windows and gutters.

Repairs to those problems were made. New siding and doors were installed, and the plumbing and heating systems were replaced. The single-family home is almost ready for resale as a market rate property.

The city began using the program after receiving complaints from homeowners in inner-city neighborhoods such as the Acre about abandoned buildings causing blight.

“This initiative not only helped turn around an abandoned property,’’ Fiorentini said of the 5th Avenue building. “It also helped enhance the neighborhood.

“This leads to better housing and higher property values for the entire neighborhood,’’ he said. “These efforts will improve public safety, provide for a cleaner city and greater tax generation.”

How to help To report a deteriorated property, call the Health and Inspectional Services Department at 978-374-2325.