MANCHESTER — Tenant advocacy and social justice groups on Wednesday identified four city landlords who manage dozens of apartments the groups say are substandard, including exposed lead paint, bedbug infestations and mold-inducing water leaks.
The groups — Granite State Organizing Project, The Way Home and American Friends Service Committee — called on the city to tighten housing regulations, hire more inspectors, increase landlord fines and open an office of tenant services.
Their study — “A Report on Substandard Housing Conditions” — relied on city inspection files to highlight violations that can go unaddressed for months.
The report author, Susan Bruce, said landlords do what’s minimally needed to pass three-year inspections. The total of outstanding tax bills for two of the landlords exceed $500,000.
One of the four landlords named in the report said all of the company properties have passed city inspections and have compliance certificates. But Kathy Perdue, manager of Perdue Properties Inc., acknowledged that lead has not been abated from all the properties, and she said bedbugs are a recurring problem.
Perdue said the company has worked with The Way Home in the past.
“We want to be a team player. We don’t want to be the enemy,” she said. A reporter was unable to reach the other landlords named in the report — Mohamed Mobeen’s Fair Deal Enterprises; Donald T. Jsirandanis, and Formosa Co.
At City Hall, the head of the Department of Planning and Community Development acknowledged that some rental properties are in substandard shape. Leon LaFreniere said his department lacks the tools and resources to do the job. He also said it’s difficult to collect court fines.
“When properties are owned by out-of-state entities, it’s much more difficult to reach them and force compliance,” LaFreniere said. He said the city has three full-time inspectors devoted solely to apartments. Two years ago, there were four.
LaFreniere had not read the report so could not comment on it. A telephone call left for Mayor Ted Gatsas, who received a copy of the report Tuesday, was not returned.
The organizations said they started speaking to center city residents in 2008 about housing conditions. They visited apartments, and they reviewed housing inspection files.
Maggie Fogarty of the Friends Service Committee said deteriorated buildings affect the quality of life in a neighborhood and give Manchester a bad reputation.
The Way Home’s Rick Castillo said the most troubling aspect of substandard housing is child lead poisoning. In 2013, two city children were hospitalized for lead poisoning and had to undero a dangerous procedure to remove lead poisons, one of them twice. The report recommended that lead detection be part of the city’s inspection process.
Jose R. Marte, a tenant in a Perdue property on Wilson Street, said he’s had to replace mold-covered sheetrock in his apartment. He said the sheetrock won’t last forever because the problem is a roof leak.
He said the maintenance man barely speaks English, and a homeless man was sleeping in a supply closet over the winter.
He’s stopped paying his $850 monthly rent. “My main concern is the (bed)bugs. They freak me out,” he said.
He said he’s been evicted before. He will let Perdue take him to court, he’ll work out a payment plan and then move out.
Perdue said Marte is upset with Perdue because he can’t make his rent payments. She did not believe he was withholding rent.
During a news conference, Marte teared up when he spoke about losing custody of his 2-year-old daughter after she was exposed to mold, lead and insects in a former apartment. The social worker told him it was a case of failure to thrive, he said.
“No matter where I go, landlords do this to me and my family,” Marte said. “They take your money and won’t do a damn thing.”