A homeless man who authorities say broke into a condemned, city-owned property on Essex Street and started two fires to stay warm got into the building even though it was locked and boarded up, according to officials.
Code Enforcement Director Jeremy Martin said the condemned building at 472 Essex St. was boarded up at the time of the incident on Nov. 29, when he got a call from police that someone had broken into the building. When firefighters arrived, they found a homeless man disoriented and suffering from smoke inhalation after he set fires in the fireplaces to keep warm, officials said.
The city has taken ownership of more properties in recent years in an effort to crack down on delinquent property owners, some of whom had years of unpaid property taxes.
Since January, the city has acquired 11 properties as a result of matured tax liens, four of which are abandoned residential buildings slated to be demolished, including the Essex Street property.
“Once we take possession of any property, we have an interdisciplinary approach which involves code, police, legal, public works and our team working together to secure properties [and] evaluate their condition,” Community and Development Director Tanya Emery said.
“Each of those steps take time, especially with the lengthy required notice periods and necessary time for environmental assessments,” she said.
The goal is either to sell or demolish the buildings as quickly as possible, Emery said.
Until then, signs that the buildings are condemned and owned by the city are posted on the outside of the property and doors and windows are locked. If doors and windows aren’t intact, the city will resort to boarding them up, as was the case at 472 Essex St., Martin said.
The city, in years past, has had problems with people breaking into its condemned properties by prying aside boards, for example, he said. But that has happened less frequently in recent years, he said.
The city acquired the Essex Street property in August from Richard and Jennifer Moore after several unsuccessful attempts to collect unpaid property taxes, according to city documents.
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