The city of Lewiston has sued landlords and real estate companies more than 100 times in the past 10 years to force them to repair buildings where people were living. The map below shows all the properties where the city — a population of 36,000 — resorted to the courts to force changes and includes information about who was sued.
For comparison, Bangor, with a population of 32,000, has filed 11 lawsuits against landlords since 2009, according to Assistant City Solicitor Paul Nicklas.
A lawsuit is not automatically triggered when someone calls the code enforcement office to complain about the conditions of their apartment building. Rather, it’s after Lewiston asks landlords to improve their property, and they do not — usually over a period of many months — that the city may turn to the court to force changes.
The prosecution of land-use violations is for the “truly difficult enforcement issues and the truly uncooperative violators,” according to the state training manual for code enforcement officers.
This map represents the first known collection of those most difficult cases in Lewiston and shows that a handful of people have been responsible for the bulk of deteriorating buildings.
The buildings with the landlords least likely to make repairs were located in the city’s Tree Streets neighborhood. The highest concentration of poor-quality housing on a single road was on Bartlett Street, with the conditions of 10 buildings prompting legal action in the past eight years, some of them more than once, all within 2/10 of a mile.
Five properties on that street were owned by companies controlled by the same woman, Debra Sullivan, when the city went to court to force repairs. Over the past decade, Sullivan’s companies have owned the single greatest number of properties — 22 — that have been the subject of lawsuits in Lewiston.
Four other buildings on Bartlett Street that were subject to lawsuits were owned by companies controlled by Rick Lockwood. A total of nine of his buildings in Lewiston were the subject of lawsuits since 2009.
Erin Rhoda is editor of Maine Focus, a journalism and community engagement initiative by the Bangor Daily News.
More by Erin Rhoda