PORTLAND — A Portland landlord is facing hundreds of thousands of dollar in fines after the city says she refused to fix life-safety violations.
It’s the largest fine since the city formed a housing safety office in response to the deadly Noyes St. fire that killed six people.
According to records, most of the violations at the five-unit building on Woodford St. are now fixed, but the city says it took years to get some of them corrected and now the landlord is ordered to pay a daily fine for each violation adding up to more than $500,000.
“The building has been in bad condition for a long time. There’s been issues with wiring, plumbing, smoke detectors missing,” said Pine Tree Legal attorney Katie McGovern, who represents one of the building’s tenants.
According to court records, city inspectors found multiple violations during several visits starting back more than two years ago, including obstructed exits, inadequate fire doors, bed bugs, no working smoke alarms and leaking pipes.
A Portland judge ordered landlord Sulan Chau pay $510,000 in fines.
“We have represented a number of tenants in different buildings owned by Sulan Chao over the years. Our experience has been they’re poorly maintained and the landlord has been unresponsive,” McGovern said.
City spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said while they don’t want to take landlords to court, they will if they have to.
“Ultimately it’s about tenants being in safe buildings. We want landlords to cooperate with us ahead of time when we notice violations,” Grondin said.
Brit Vitalius, president of the Southern Maine Landlord Association, called this an extreme case and said never seen a landlord hit with such a big fine.
“It’s certainly a jaw dropping number to see, but the point I’ve been making back to landlords who are concerned is that the city is very reasonable and they have these fines and ability to fine for these extreme situations,” Vitalius said.
WGME called the number listed for the landlord and owner of the building, but she quickly hung up the phone and had no comment.
Chau has 21 days to appeal the judge’s decision.
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