PORTLAND — The city condemned an apartment building on Washington Avenue on Friday, telling a family of eight, the owner and his son that they must vacate the building because it was deemed “unfit for human habitation.”
Building owner Isely Lamour was given the eight-page eviction letter after city and fire inspectors went to the apartment building Friday.
“The residential dwelling units located at 592 Washington Ave. are unfit for human habitation and must be vacated and remain vacated,” the letter to Lamour states. “Amongst the violations present (a list of which is attached hereto) this building contains blocked exits, unsafe wiring, excessive storage (fire load) inside and outside, cockroach infestation, and illegal unit(s).”
The violations must be repaired or remedied in accordance with the City of Portland Code of Ordinances before anyone will be allowed to return, the letter states.
“Furthermore, our files indicate that the legal use of the building is a two-family residence with an office in the front on the first floor … [and] presently it is being used beyond the permitted legal use,” it states.
A family of eight was living on the first floor, and the owner and owner’s son were living on the second floor, according to a news release from city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin.
City inspectors delivered the condemnation notice Friday afternoon and were accompanied by social services staff to assist the tenants, she said.
“It’s certainly not our goal to displace residents, but when the violations are serious enough to warrant it, we must take action because their safety is what matters most,” Jon Jennings, Portland city manager, said in the news release.
“Following the Council’s recent approval to create the new Housing Safety Office, which enacts the Task Force’s recommendations, staff has been developing a risk-based prioritization tool for inspections and public information,” Jennings continued. “While this work is not yet complete, we do know that this property would score high, underscoring its importance.”
The task force was created after a fatal fire at 20-24 Noyes St. on Nov. 1, 2014, the lives of six people: tenants David Bragdon Jr., 27, Ashley Thomas, 29, and Nicole Finlay, 26, as well as Christopher Conlee, 25, of Portland, Maelisha Jackson, 26, of Topsham and Rockland resident Steven Summers, 29.
The city released inspection logs showing 16 complaints about the Noyes property dating to 2003 regarding unsafe conditions with the multiunit apartment building.
The tenants of 592 Washington Ave. are barred from the property, and the city is scheduled to return to the condemned building on July 24 to make sure it is vacant and secure.
Portland’s corporation counsel’s office intends to pursue legal action against the property owner, including injunctive relief and civil penalties, according to Grondin.