Friday, September 6, 2013

A Safer Place To Be

Gilreath Manor, Hobart Lane, Amherst

When the occupancy rate at Gilreath Manor went from zero to 100% last week, for the first time in perhaps a generation, the 14-unit apartment complex was completely up to code.  

Even the owners' expensive attorney admits to the Amherst Board of Health " ... the work was performed in the manner approved by the board and in a professional manner, leaving the units in a safer and better condition than before."


Because on September 19th of last year, the main building pictured above could easily have become a death trap.  Too many occupants and not enough smoke detectors is bad enough, but throw in illegal basement bedrooms and a slow burning fuse to a potential powder keg has been ignited.

For a landlord in a college town like Amherst to lie to investigators and try to delay their inspections, and then try to place blame on tenants by pretending they did not know about extra roommates living in illegal basement bedrooms (when in fact they encouraged it) would be considered standard operating procedure for slumlords. 

But when it's a prominent second-generation family business empire and the individual at the helm is also the Amherst Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors President, let's just say the complicated case became a high profile affair.

And the Grandonicos lost.  No more flagrantly violating the (no more than) four unrelated housemates bylaw, having two bedrooms in the basements of Gilreath Manor (one per unit is now legal) or being less than attentive to safety codes with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Thus sending a loud and clear message that the town is truly serious about cracking down on sub par rental housing -- no matter who the owners are.

The outcome of this particular case was a major reason the controversial "Rental Permit Bylaw" passed Town Meeting so overwhelmingly last May.

Although there was a brief dust up in late June when the Board of Health thought the Grandonicos were being disrespectful, which is of course not a good idea when you require an official variance.

But as you can see from the public documents back story, all's well that ends well.


Dr. Ed said...

I have a problem with this variance -- the purpose of requiring a 7" ceiling is so that people aren't housed in claustrophobic conditions.

This is like the assorted funky definitions of what a "cord" of wood (4'x4'x8') was -- and it got so bad in the '70s that I believe the state defined it as a set number of cubic feet. But there were "face cords" and "short cords" and this cords and that cords and general discord until people realized that everyone was being ripped off badly.

While I am very much "free market", I'm also "truth in advertising" and I believe that a "foot" is a "foot", a "gallon" is a "gallon" and we don't play games with specs.

I believe that they should be required to advertise the units as not meeting code. As not meeting spec -- and they should be required to make every tenant sign off that they know that the bedroom has a low ceiling and hence that the unit isn't the full value of similar units elsewhere.

Lincoln Real Estate will claim that this will mean they get less rent for these units, and I say "so what" -- they *should* get less than a unit with a normal-height ceiling in the bedroom.

And - personally - I think Larry Farber dropped the ball here -- if he'd sent the Board of Health an email saying "I'm assuming that you are represented by the other inspector" and *then* they didn't respond, it would have been something else.

Anonymous said...

People aren't forced to rent them. When they look at the apartment they decide whether they want it. That's free market. Free to rent elsewhere.

Dr. Ed said...

I love the "sucks to be you" attitude -- just don't complain when the college kids mirror it back to you.