10 Reasons Why Your Apartments may be Uninhabitable by Lee Hall, Chief Sanitary Inspector of the City of Worcester

10 Reasons Why Your Apartments may be Uninhabitable by Lee Hall, Chief Sanitary Inspector of the City of Worcester

Resource Persons:

Lee Hall – Lee

Philip Salmon – Phil

Moderator:

Richard Merlino – Rich

[Start 0:00:00]

Lee: If you went to the landlord’s summit, I apologize because this is the same presentation, pretty much what we did, but we’ll be ad lib  and we can answers and so on and so forth. But yes, I am a chief and I have been there 20 years, all in housing. Phil actually has 30 years, but he’s got more variety.

But then I did do my thesis on slum landlords and I did poll this wonderful group, and it was on your perceptions on providing a healthy home and just for the FYI, I thought my experience, the landlords that I deal with get kind of jaded. They don’t want to deal with their tenants. They don’t want to make improvements, and I was proven wrong. We found out that this group is really the cream of the crop, and you guys pretty much do everything right, and that’s why I don’t know a lot of you that are here.

I know some. I know Jane. I know Mary. I know a few people, and I know Sandra very well. She has a lot of property management, but it’s a good thing always. When I meet a landlord and I don’t know who they are, I’ve been there 20 years with the city, you’re doing something right. Doug is doing a great job, and Rich is doing a great job, and I’ve already learned a lot of things by being here tonight, so it’s a great crew and you guys are part of a great association, and you should give yourselves a hand because I see it every day. I see the [unintelligible 0:01:28] every day.

[Let’s see. I’m not very good at this.]

This is our mission statement. We protect quality of life for all that come in Worcester and to serve the public by protecting the health, safety, and environmental stability of Worcester’s business and residential community.

I’m going to kind of blow through this because we don’t have a lot of time, and many of you may have seen it, but we do have different divisions. Building and zoning, that’s all your permitting, wiring and plumbing, mechanicals, zoning, regulatory inspections enforcement. We do have weights and measures. We do gas stations. We do scales. We do all those kinds of things, but then housing and health inspections are pretty much what Amanda is in charge of and housing and nuisance, that’s my bag. We do about 5,000 to 6,000 inspections every year. Actually, I take it back. Complaints, we just handle like 5,000 to 6,000 complaints every year, so a lot more inspections if you include re-inspections.

We have lead paint poisoning prevention program, which Phil heads out. Food protection, of course, air, water, hazardous materials, so if someone has rusty water, they call us, if somebody has a broken sewer line, there’s always a call. Weights and measures, I mentioned. Of course, we do enforcement.

We are the code department, big bad code department and I always get the skulls and crossbones when I introduce myself, but we really want to work with you, not against you. That’s my motto. We have a lot of inspectors, 17,000 permits issued, 51,000 inspections, 9,000 work orders, 14,000 inspections conducted, associated with all those work orders. We do a lot of work.

I have I think it’s 10 or 11 inspectors actually in the field and housing, and two of those will be nuisance inspectors, so they’re looking just for violations of city ordinances, so things like overgrowth, trash, graffiti, unregistered vehicles. Probably a lot of you have gotten a notice for that because a lot of tenants leave their unregistered vehicles. Sometimes you may have been tagged by graffiti and you’re asked to clean it up, so you would get a notice for anything like that.

I just want to mention our new website, so there is online customer service. You can do some online permitting. I haven’t checked it out too much, but it’s supposed to be more user friendly. I don’t know if I have found that yet to be so, but again I haven’t really looked at it.

If you went to the old site, you’re probably used to it and there’s different divisions and departments. You can just check the links to. It’ a little bit bigger, better tabs, but they talk about a lot of stuff. But there is some information for property owners and you can do some online permitting. I don’t think I have that slide because I don’t really talk about that.

If you have a question, I’ll be happy to try to help to address that later on, but I’m not really very familiar with it.

But I will talk about permits. Yes, you do have to pull permits. I think probably everybody over here knows that anything electrical, you have to pull a permit, plumbing, all that but it’s really not so much to make you pay an additional fee, but so that it’s done by a licensed professional and it’s for your safety’s sake, it’s for your tenants’ safety sake. Also from a consumer protection angle because I can’t tell you how many people we hear from that say, “I hired somebody. didn’t show up. They took my money. They didn’t do this. They didn’t do that.” If they’re pulling a permit, then they have to have some kind workman’s compensation and they have to be licensed, and they won’t get a permit unless they have that.

You probably all know this, but we also always advice homeowners not to pull permits themselves. Make them pull the permits because they have to have the liability. If you are pulling the permit, they are going to be working under your liability. You’ve probably been told that, too, before.

[0:05:06]

What needs a permit? I need a new deck. Do I need a permit? My hot water tank just went Saturday. Do I have to get a permit? I want to install an aboveground pool. Do I need a permit? Those are all yes, yes, and yes’s [laughter]. The hot water tank that goes on a Saturday, you can get a permit the following week. That would be considered emergency. You could definitely get your plumber to come in, a licensed plumber to come in and change a hot water tank as long as they pull the permit the following week. If it’s an electric hot water tank, you’ll need an electric permit as well. Gas, plumbing, that’s what you need.

How long is my permit good for? A year, two years. I see projects in the city. A permit is good for six months; however, if you’re working on a project and you’re getting some status inspections, if it turns out to be a long-term project, a permit can actually be open indefinitely as long as you’re having an inspector come and do a status. They have to be able to put something on record at least every six months to show that work is being done and it’s being done in a workmanlike manner and in accordance to all the applicable codes.

Repair work versus renovation, we get that call a lot. Any maintenance that doesn’t affect all the structure, the egress, fire protection system, fire ratings, energy conservation provisions, which might be solar panels. You will need a permit for solar panels, plumbing, sanitary, gas, electrical, other utilities. So what’s left? All the cosmetics, all the good stuff; painting, landscaping. Locks, you don’t need to change your locks. Gardeners don’t need them. [unintelligible 0:06:42] don’t need them.

A small detached shed, up until they changed that code, used to be 10×10, now 10×20. It doesn’t need a permit. Fences not over 6 feet high do not need a permit. You do have to hire a survey. We will not come out until and tell you where your property line is. Retaining walls less than 4 feet, do not need a permit; however, if you’re going to change the grade, if you change your grade more than 15 percent, I’m told, I’m not a building inspector, you can’t sway to that, but if you’re changing the grade you do need a permit, so you should hire a professional if you’re going to be doing any really big jobs.

One thing I will say and we get a lot of this is we’re not going to make a determination between property owners. I get a lot of falling walls, two years hanging over it and people calling us, saying, “It’s their wall and they need to fix it and the city can order them to fix it.” Well, do have an ordinance, for instructions, for fences and walls, so we can write someone in order to repair a wall or shed that’s falling down, or a dead tree that’s hanging, we’re not going to order a homeowner, let’s say landlord, homeowner to fix a wall that’s falling on someone else’s side. It’s more of a civil matter.

The city is not going to fight civil matters. We get a fence wall complaints from people saying, “This property owner was doing this and the city needs to tell them to do something else. Well, if it doesn’t violate a code and it’s falling down, I mean it’s a natural danger, but if a wall is falling down, I mean we can write an order saying it needs to be picked up.” We’re not fighting other neighbor’s cars. We’re not fighting fence walls. We get a lot of that and it’s just an aggravation.

Other exemptions. Cabinets don’t need permits. All this stuff I think you probably know. The plumbing will need permits, and of course lead. If your property has been before 1978, then you may have some lead there, so you may need to do some lead renovations. Phil can talk a little bit more about that.

If I talk too fast, just let me know because I know I do. We don’t have a lot of time.

Permits required. Construct, we construct, alter repair, remove, demolish a building, any construction, floors, windows, doors, walls, porches. All of those things need permits.

Permits required to remove a wall, loadbearing support. We really need a building inspector for this presentation. Mr. Kelly, who is our commissioner, actually does these portions, so I do apologize if it seems repetitive, but you can always call and check to confirm and you should always do that. If you have a question, just call. You can always call the building department and they will talk to you. You can come down if you want. Best time to come is between 8:00 and 8:30 or 4:00 and 4:30. That’s when the building inspectors are around.

This is an important one, and this kind of parallels the homelessness situation in the city of Worcester. This is one of the important things and Rich said what is the most important things to talk about. I would say illegal apartments is a big one. We’re finding them all over the place, probably every day, I get at least two complains of illegal apartments.

[0:10:14]

The city is growing. We’ve got a hue refugee population. We’ve had 300 families come in from Puerto Rico. We have a very marginalized population in the inner city and people are doubling up. People are going in attics. People are going in basements, and it can be very unsafe. When we find them, we write them up, you’ll be ordered to remove them with permits, so if you bought a home and it says it’s  four-family but it may not be, there may not be a second egress. For a lot of reasons, it may not be a legal apartment.

You really need to be careful. Here are some headlines. People getting killed in illegal apartments, renting unsafe basement apartments. One person rescued from the fire on [unintelligible 0:11:04] Street right next door to our building in an illegal apartment in the attic. She was lucky to get out of alive. Connecticut blaze had a tiny illegal apartment. This is all the shares, San Francisco landlord paying $1 million to residents. I think that was that big artists’ colony out there in San Francisco where they have turned it into all housing.

It’s really something to think about. I know people think they have space. They want to use it. They want to help somebody. I’ve seen landlords that actually will rent out their apartments and then they will move into the basement, and they will say, “Well, I’m just staying in a room.” But they don’t even have a bathroom. They’re running extension cords. They don’t have heat.

It’s a big problem in the City of Worcester. I wouldn’t expect it from the cream of the crop, but it’s happening, so if you think you can make more money and maybe you need the more money to stay, keep the house, you’re better off selling the house. Really, if you can’t make it, running your business the way you’re supposed to, then maybe you don’t belong in business. That’s why I tell some landlords because it’s just very scary out there.

Rich: Lee, can you keep that list going? Are there any other sort of things that you’re running across commonly that are red flags that might be an illegal apartment? You mentioned it doesn’t have a second egress. You mentioned running extension cords because there are not enough outlets in this particular space. What are some other things?

Lee: Well, I have one to tell because you see a lot of names on mailboxes, but sometimes you know a mother has a couple of children and they all have different last names. That’s not always the one to tell. We get a lot of complaints from other neighbors, other neighbors saying that, “I see people coming and going. There’s a lot of cars.” That’s a big one. There’s too many cars, too many people there.

Male Audience 1: Basement apartments.

Lee: I’m sorry.

Male Audience 1: Basement apartments.

Lee: Yes, basement apartments. Yes, we a lot of those. Basement apartments, people coming in and out of bulkheads and things like that. We really get them usually. Sometimes we don’t hear about them until someone doesn’t have heat or somebody, they think they’re getting an electric bill and they’re paying for a space that they think that they’re not supposed to be paying for. “I’m paying for the attic apartment. I’m paying for the basement apartment.”

I had a landlord actually that turned her three storage sheds on each floor into bedroom units and was living in one with her son and was renting the other two to family members while she had the three front apartments all rented out, and she was doing the basement over, too. After we made her rip it all that out, now she’s trying to do the attic, so [laughter].

It’s just rampant. People want to maximize their square footage, but you really need to be careful. That’s the one takeaway I would say is to be careful where you’re putting people in to rent, to make sure that it’s legal. You can’t do change abuses, conversion of these spaces without proper permits, pose significant damage, I mean danger.

Some can be made into real apartments. I had one today. He’s got a single family. He had an apartment on the second floor. It’s an illegal two-family, but he’s in an area, doing residential conversion. He’s putting in the egress. He’s separating utilities and he’s going to be able to do it.

It is possible. It is harder I think to go from a three to a four because now that’s triggering things like sprinklers. Sprinklers are an expensive conversion, I have to add. They’re very costly, so that it prevents a lot of people from going to a three to a four but from a one to a two or two to a three, I think sometimes it’s still doable. You just have to have the right height. You have to have the right window space. You have to have the fire escape windows or regular-sized windows. Bedrooms have to have windows. That’s one thing you see if someone is living in a room without a window. It should have separate utilities, that kind of thing.

[0:15:11]

If you do not seek a permit prior to building, you will be required to remove the new illegal apartment and maybe liable to pay for your tenants’ relocations. That’s one that’s kind of little messy, little muddy. We’re still figuring out who’s paying for tenant relocations. It’s not spelled out in the code, but we’ve been asking the court.

We had a rough winter and we had 30 no-heat calls in one day back in January, and a lot of those properties ended up with repairs that need a lot. Some actually were condemned and some landlords are very good at relocating tenants, some tenants are very good at finding places to go, and others were not. It became a little muddy on who was going to do what and we had to ask the court in some cases. We went to the court and said we had to ask the court to order the landlord to relocate the tenants.

Speaking of heat, the one thing I tell all landlords that I meet is you have from June, maybe May soon, but from June to September to maintain your heating systems. That’s when you do it. You don’t wait until the coldest day of the year [laughter]. Again, I won’t expect anyone in this room to not be checking their furnaces during the offseason but that’s the best time to do it because otherwise, you’re calling the same time everyone else is calling and the plumber is not available and now your tenants are out in the cold, so to speak, and who’s going to pay for them? You get paying higher emergency rates to plumbers and—

[What did I do? Here we go.]

So—

Rich: So, landlords don’t rent out your treehouse.

Lee: Or your doghouse.

Rich: Or your doghouse.

Lee: Or your outhouse [laughter]. Well, yes, in your garage, people put people in garages. I’ve seen that. I saw that once in a condo that they have people in the garage, people on each floor. It was a triplex and they were renting out each floor. It was like a townhome and they had a bathroom in the garage or something.

This is me. I took the slide out, but.

I want to talk a little bit about the proposed changes in the sanitary code, not a lot but hopefully you’ve all seen it. Has everybody seen it? Has anybody been online to the state website to see the proposed changes? It’s pretty cumbersome to read. They have had three public hearings. I think they’re still taking public comments. Your fearless leader, Doug, actually you’re in good hands. He actually did posted a nice, long letter about changes that he thought shouldn’t be made and other changes that should be made.

It was enlightening for me. I’ve been reading a lot of the public comment. I think a lot of it remains unchanged. They just kind of streamlining some language, but they are changing some things. One of the most notable things, they’re clarifying fireplaces, wood stoves, parlor stoves, space heaters. They’re not permanent sources of heat. They’re looking for centralized heating systems. They want forced hot air, forced hot water, steam, pretty much it seems all they want, but—

Rich: Electric baseboards are still going to be up there.

Lee: Yes, electric baseboards. I guess in essence, what they’re trying to say because they haven’t really specified parlor stove heaters in there because in Worcester, we have a lot of parlor stove heaters. I know the gas-on-gas heating stoves are no longer legal. If they’re there and they work, they’re fine, but you can’t even move them from one flat to another anymore. That’s illegal, but I would consider that to be some sort of a centralized heating system but it’s really just in one room. It is vague in some areas.

Another big one, heating season will end on May 31st, and we already grant a lot of waivers for a lot of housing complexes that have big cooling and heating systems they have to shut down when it gets really hot, so we have to grant them waivers, and there’s some language in there that’s changed for there. Mechanical ventilation must be capable of exhausting air to the outdoors.

This is a good one. I like this one. If an occupant replaces a key on the entry door to their residence, they must give the key to the owner, so that’s a good one. There are some pluses there.

This is the big one: integrated pest management, so what they want is anything over three units, so four units and above, you would have to have integrative pest management, which is comprehensive. You don’t need to look at all of that, but a comprehensive system of prevention and—let me see—prevention, eliminate their food, water. Mice and pests need food, water, and shelter just like we do, so you have seal all your points of entry, which has always been in the code. You want to remove leaks, holes.

[0:20:05]

A big part of that is having a contract, I think, ongoing contract with a pest management company. There’s an education component where you have to educate your tenants. Now that would be great if only all tenants would listen to what you told them [laughter].

Rich: I try to gross them out and explain to them what’s going to happen to their life if they don’t take the trash outside.

Lee: Yes. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work with bedbugs either. I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. They don’t want to prepare and all the rest of it. It sounds imposing. It’s really not. There is some language in there about keeping a record of your integrated pest management, so every time it’s treated and so on and so forth, I think there is a little onus then on the property owners to maintain the record, but if you have exterminator under contract and they just give you an invoice or a receipt of what they’ve done every time they come and you keep that in the file, I would think that would suffice, but that will remain to be seen.

Steps to IPM. Inform your property manager, maintenance staff about the effectiveness of IPM and the important role they play. That’s all education. Inform your tenants. Another part of that was—I don’t know. Tenants are more cooperative and responsible when they recognize the impact of their housekeeping, and when they see a prompt response to maintenance request. I think there are some out there. There are some out there, but the ones that we deal with it, they all—I shouldn’t say all, I don’t want to discriminate against anyone or it could be too inclusive, or whatever the right word is.

You would think that all tenants want to conserve energy. They want to be clean. They want to do all those things, but I haven’t always found that to be true after 20 years of doing housing inspections. I wouldn’t have a job if that were true, I suppose. But I do believe at better maintenance protection investment and I do believe that everybody should have exterminator under contract because I think prevention is the best measure. Sealing all your points of entry is huge. Getting your tenants onboard is huge.

My big pet peeve is making sure that tenants have barrels. There’s going to be new language in there for the responsibility of a landlord, three or more units, about final collection and being responsible for trash. I didn’t like that one. I don’t think that we should put it all on the landlord. I think tenants also have to be responsible with final collection of their trash, so it’s a little phrase there that’s in there.

Rich: Lee, we’re going to open it up to questions—

Lee: Okay, sure.

Rich: If that’s okay. Put your hand up if you have a question while I’m going around. Can you please just let everybody? You may have already said it, but you were saying that—I’m going to come to Brian and everyone here in the front—but you had to go to the court to figure out who’s going to pay.

Lee: Okay, yes.

Rich: For tenant relocation. What did the court decide in majority of those cases?

Lee: Well, what happens is if we issue an order for no heat, no hot water in emergency situation, we’re going to issue an order to the landlord and that’s an emergency 24-hour violation notice order to correct, and if it’s not done in technically 24 hours, but it’s usually 48, maybe even 72. We understand that things you have to hire a contractor that there’s financing involved. Sometimes they bring temporary space heaters. The tenant seems to be okay for a while, but if they don’t, we have to go to right to court and file for a temporary restraining order, a TRO.

In that restraining order, one of the things you’re asking is them to make the repair, but also to take care of the tenants in the meantime because we don’t recognize a space heater as a safe means of heating. It’s not, and in fact, I think the new language is going to say that it’s not. It’s not acceptable. We all use them. We know it and tenants don’t want to relocate, but the alternative is there could be a fire. Once you’ve seen it, you have to say it, so that’s what we’ve asked them to do.

Then, pretty much all the circumstances, the judge have said, “Yes, the landlord has to relocate the tenant. We did have a lot of those cases. We had a lot of orders, most of them were complied with, but the few that we had, yes, they were ordered to, but even then, the landlords can’t always relocate them. And so we would have to go back in contempt, but it’s like now [unintelligible 0:24:32] not to listen to the judge. “They’re okay. They want to stay. Here’s the letter. They have space heaters. Do you still want me to relocate them?”

I said, “I don’t want you to relocate them now.” I said, “The judge wants you to. Now if you want to stare the judge in the face and tell them why they gave you a letter, that’s up to you.:” But that’s why I love the court system. Tell it to the judge [laughter]. Does someone else have a question.

Male Audience 2: I have a question.

[0:25:02]

Brian: Yes. This should be a real quick one. I just wanted to clarify. It’s 105 CMR 410.000 State Sanitary Code Chapter 2?

Lee: Chapter 2 is actually all the enforcement regulations. Chapter 1 I think is the administration of it, so it gives you the scope and all that, I do believe. Chapter 2 is actually the code.

Brian: Okay, so if I’m a landlord, I need to know chapter 2?

Lee: Yes.

Brian: Okay, thank you.

Lee: Good, but did you download the current one because we’re using the current one and we will be using the current one probably for a good year still. I see a lot of really good feedback online from boards of health and other associations and going back and forth. I don’t go through it with a fine-tooth comb because in the end, I want to use whatever they tell us to use. They didn’t ask me. I’ve got 20 years’ experience, nobody asked me [laughter]. But some people had some good arguments in there, so—

Female Audience 1: Two quick questions. One is that the new law that the landlords have to make sure that we take care of the tenant’s trash?

Lee: Not yet.

Female Audience 1: Okay, so—

Lee: Not yet, but it’s proposed, so if you want to pull up the proposed revisions, they’re a little difficult to read because they’ve changed all the numbers, too.

Female Audience 1: Yes.

Lee: For years and years, when Phil and I still have to handwrite our orders, I knew all the code numbers backwards. But I’m not writing then anymore. I’m the chief now, so I’m just seeing what goes out and we do it all on computer, so I’ve kind of forgotten some of the actual code numbers that go with the regulations, but they’ve changed an awful lot of them. They’ve just kind of set the code up in a different order, so I’ve been trying to go back and forth, see what’s been read out and lined out, just to see.

I see a lot of the language is still in there. it’s just in a different place maybe. They’ve finetuned it a little bit, but they have made some tweaks. One thing I will say, when I look at the code and the tweaks that they’ve made like with integrated pest management and garbage and ventilation, those are all so specific to what the CDC and the HUD have adopted as their healthy home practices.

If you’ve not looked into what healthy homes are, and now this is, I should have rehearsed this, but in good repair, dry, well ventilated, free from pests, free from trip hazards—and well-ventilated. Did I say that? I think there’s like seven—there are seven principles to healthy homes and that’s really what we’re seeing. I knew this one when it started two years ago when I was doing some healthy home research for my thesis and this is what’s come out of it because it’s all tied to health, our healthcare costs. The highest healthcare costs, the asthma in children and work loss, and absenteeism in school and in the workplace.

The health stats in your home, they’re trying to make them as safe and as healthy as possible. They want clean air. They want them dry, pest-free, all of those things, and they’re supposed to lower our healthcare costs, and this is the end result to that.

Female Audience 1: Real quick. I know you do a lot of inspections over the years.

Lee: Uh-huh.

Female Audience 1: Do you find that there is a lot more good landlords versus there is more good tenants?

Rich: More questions, there.

Lee: I think there’s a lot of good landlords that I don’t know and don’t see. I see a lot of the same landlords, and we actually have what we call frequent flyers in tenants, too. But I think we have a burgeoning population, a marginalized population in the  city right now. We have, like I said, refugees. We have a lot of mentally ill. We have a lot of addicted populations, people that can’t get out of their own way, and they are the ones that are having the most problems.

The cost of housing is rising, and it is. That’s the way for Boston and they can all stay in Boston. Actually I don’t agree with what Boston wants, not at all. I don’t agree with that at all. I don’t want to know when people are sending eviction notices. It doesn’t matter to us, but I understand gentrification and we are getting waves of populations from [unintelligible 0:29:32].

Female Audience 2: If you have a tenant that is a hoarder, is that considered a sanitary violation?

Lee: It’s going to be, I think in the new code. Well, actually now that I say that, I don’t think it is actually spelled out in the code and someone has asked for that. But we do write orders for unsanitary and cluttered apartments. Yes, we don’t necessarily define it as hoarding, but sometimes we do. We will try to identify and help correct that situation. We have a social worker on staff and we do a lot of referrals with the elderly and any other agency that can help elder services, I meant. Churches, we’ve had some locked work on the churches to help clean out apartments for some elderly residencies, but yes we do.

[0:30:30]

They have to have clear passage on the apartment and they have to be sanitary because they affect the other tenants in the building. Yes, we will address it.

Male Audience 2: This maybe off the wall a little bit, but I don’t know if you’re staying, talk to you later. Whatever happened to the mini-house concept?

Lee: Tiny house?

Male Audience 2: Yes.

Lee: We actually had a tiny house. In fact, Charbel, I think he’s a member here, I think, Charbel Najem. He built a tiny house and I think he actually lived here. There is some language in the new code regarding tiny houses. There will enforced just like any other unit, so there will be some regulations on them, Absolutely. They have to be built with codes. I don’t know much about the building code. I imagine they probably put something in there for tiny houses and their revision. They update their code like every year, the building code.

Male Audience 2: Statewide again [unintelligible 0:31:18]?

Lee: Statewide? We kind of follow the state, so I would say statewide. I would say statewide. They are building. They are allowing tiny homes or tiny houses. Home, houses, I don’t know.

Rich: Fantastic! As long as it’s legal, right?

Lee: Right.

Rich: Here is our last question before we move on.

Lee: Okay.

Rich: From Jessica Swanson.

Joel: [laughter] Really? It’s Joel Swanson, but we both got labeled the same name. Mine is more of a comment than it is a question. It’s funny because it was about providing barrels for everybody. When I started out 10 years ago, I got barrels for everybody, six barrels. I found out that every single year, it turned into five out of six heaping, smelling piles of trash that I had to pick up, so I actually pulled all the barrels away because I found that they were much more trouble than they were worth and were inviting pests. I was wondering if you’ve heard that as a comment—

Lee: I do, yes. Very much so. So—

Rich: So, would you recommend renting out the barrels and have somebody live in each one?

Lee: [laughter] I have a very specific advice when it comes to the barrels because you definitely have to have some kind of container, nonporous container that’s rodent proof and watertight container for the trash because without it, you’re going to get pests. I like the idea of giving each tenant—now the code says at least two or as many as are necessary—so at least two big barrels with covers that you make them sign for, “Yes, I received my two barrels,” and I tell them to spray paint unit 1 on the barrel. Unit 1 on the cover of the barrel. Zip tie the cover to the barrel.

Rich: Some of your tenants might be accustomed to spray painting stuff already they might already have the paint.

Lee: Sure, right, right. Then give them each two to put outside the unit. Now the problem is the fire department doesn’t like the barrels in the egresses and we don’t need it. Most of the three-deckers, traditional three-deckers in the city of Worcester, they have a shed, and so they put them on the shed. Have them put them in the shed in the back, but there isn’t always the logical place to put them, so therein lies the problem because people then put them outside.

Now you say to the first floor, “These two barrels are yours. Those two barrels are yours. Those two barrels are yours.” If they don’t get emptied ,you can then go over to unit 1 and say, “You didn’t put your trash out.” They will say, “Well, third floor put their trash in my barrels.”

That is the problem. If you have to put them outside, I don’t like the whole system. Get a dumpster. That’s what I would suggest, but if you’re able to put them inside in a place that’s not going to block an egress, that’s what I tell you to do. Put a cover on it, zip tie it, make them sign for it. Spray paint it [laughter]. You know what, you have to do it every time you get a new tenant. I know that, but it’s the cost of doing business and keeping the place clean and healthy.

Rich: All right, we’re going to end it on the trash talk. Lee, how do people get in touch with you.

Lee: They can call the code department, 508-799-1189, I believe. I have some cards.

Rich: We have business cards and we have handouts and all the lead paint updates that Phil brought. Is that stuff that we’re going to be able to leave out for people to pick up? Is that up front already?

Phil: No, leave it.

Rich: You’re going to leave it when you leave. Okay, terrific. Let’s hear it for Lee Hall and Phil Salmon. Thank you very much.

Audience: [applause]

Lee: It seems [unintelligible 0:34:42]

[End 0:34:42]

This is part of the Worcester Rental Real Estate Networking and Training series.

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