Mark Hayward's City Matters: Building owner says it's not easy being a landlord
Manchester landlord Hsiu Chang texts from his phone while waiting to show a vacant apartment to tenants. (MARK HAYWARD / UNION LEADER)
She lives at 215 Wilson St., a three-story tenement building owned by Formosa LLC. There are the cockroaches and bedbugs, but her latest gripe is the trash dumped in a narrow alley beside her building. The day before she spoke, workers threw old carpeting and tacking strips — the short nails still sticking out of them — in the alley.
“I think he does the best he can with all his properties. I think he needs to get more help,” Chad said.
Hsiu (pronounced Show) Chang is one of four landlords singled out earlier this month by Granite State Organizing Project in a report that raises alarms about unsafe, unhealthy, substandard apartments in the city.
Project Director Sara Jane Knoy said Chang and the other landlords buy properties in bad shape. They undertake minimal repairs, so they end up with tenants who have no desire to care for the property.
Chang is an immigrant from Taiwan who went through Manchester schools and has degrees in communications and biology from Vanderbilt University. He’s obviously a hard worker.
Chang’s parents live in Bedford, and he has an apartment in Somerville, Mass. He drives a Prius. He said the family has a Mercedes, but it’s a 2004 model, purchased when they could afford it. He can’t afford health care, he said, but he said he’s not sure how much money he made last year.
Between the city’s inspection process and “simple economics,” the system works, Chang said.
• He said he undertakes whatever repairs come up during city inspections, which take place once every three years.
• Insects aren’t so easy. Whenever a tenant complains to the city, he has to hire an exterminator.
Granite State Organizing Project wants a tougher inspection process — tighter standards, higher fines, more inspectors and annual inspections for problem properties.
“If he’s not going to do it,” she said, “the city should come and do it, or he shouldn’t be able to own properties.”
Mark Hayward’s City Matters runs Thursdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader and UnionLeader.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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