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October 14. 2012 10:47PM

Senior tenant goes to court to fight Manchester eviction

MANCHESTER — Determined to remain in the apartment that has been his home for decades, an elderly resident of subsidized housing will go to court this week to fight a pending eviction, his lawyer said.

The outcome will determine whether Maurice Pilotte will remain at his apartment at 14 Falls Ave., where fellow tenants have complained about smoke alarms and fire hazards.

Earlier this spring, Pilotte told a reporter he is 79 years old.

The hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday in Manchester District Court. In April, the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority began eviction proceedings.

“The question really for the court is: 'Is he an unreasonable risk for his neighbors?' ” said Elliott Berry of New Hampshire Legal Assistance, who said he took the case at the request of Manchester Housing.

Berry said Pilotte has lived in his apartment for years and wants to stay. And Pilotte feels at home in the Hollow neighborhood where the apartment is located.

In May, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported about an eviction notice served on Pilotte. The April 24 notice said Manchester firefighters were called to Pilotte's apartment seven times in the previous year for either unattended cooking or improper disposal of cigarettes.

Dick Dunfey, executive director of Manchester Housing, said federal law and housing policy prohibits him from addressing the specific matter or even identifying tenants of Manchester Housing.

Yet, he spoke in generalities about how the housing authority approaches evictions.

On rare occasions, Manchester Housing has to address someone with mental “capacity” issues whose actions threaten the safety of tenants or the peaceful enjoyment of tenants' property.

“Up to and including the eviction itself, our goal would be to achieve a soft landing for the individual,” Dunfey said.

He said such individuals can be difficult to deal with, and if there is no cooperation, Manchester Housing does have to start eviction. He estimated the housing authority takes such routes once every two to three years.

Manchester lawyer David Nixon initially volunteered to help Pilotte, after the New Hampshire Union Leader wrote about his plight in May. Pilotte told a reporter he is a veteran, and Nixon went as far as contacting the New Hampshire Veterans Home on the man's behalf.

But Nixon recently told the newspaper he is not Pilotte's lawyer; he was never able to make contact with him.

According to Manchester District Court records, Manchester Housing filed eviction paperwork against Pilotte over the summer.

On Aug. 29, Manchester Housing lawyer James Craig asked that the case be delayed. The housing authority was trying to determine the best course of legal action in terms of guardianship and legal representation, Craig wrote.

On Oct. 5, Craig asked the trial go forward.

“I have researched this issue, and I can find no case law or statutory law in New Hampshire which states that we cannot move forward as long as there is no finding of legal incompetence or appointment of a guardian,” Craig wrote.

In an interview in May, Pilotte blamed the burnt food on a faulty stove and said his problems would be solved if the housing authority would get rid of the stove and give him a microwave oven.

He said he is poor and suffers from several ailments, including hearing loss, prostate cancer, which is in remission, bronchitis, ulcers and high cholesterol.

He said he moved into the apartment in the 1980s, and he cannot afford to live anywhere else.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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