Saturday, May 13, 2017

Prohibitive Cost To Upgrade Century-Old Apartment House To Current Code Leads City To Boot Over Two Dozen Tenants, Leaving Long-Time Landlord With Vacant Building

In Claremont, New Hampshire, Valley News reports:
  • When city officials met earlier this year with the owner of a Pleasant Street apartment building that had multiple serious life-safety code violations, City Manager Ryan McNutt made sure all those involved were on hand to discuss the problem.

    That way, there was no miscommunication, McNutt said. He stressed that all the city departments responsible for code enforcement, along with police and the city attorney, were present when the building owner was given a complete record of any and all efforts to rectify the violations.

    The violations were so severe that McNutt ordered the tenants to vacate their apartments, just a block south of Opera House Square, in early March.

    “There was no working fire alarm panel, no smoke detectors, wiring violations,” McNutt said. “There was no ability to warn residents if there was a fire.”

    But the owner, Walter Fawcett, of Wolfeboro, N.H., said the city refused to work with him to bring the Goddard Block at 54-62 Pleasant St. up to code at a reasonable cost and now the city has another vacant building in need of repair that he doubts anyone would be willing to invest in.

    According to Fawcett, code improvements would cost about $700,000 based on an architect’s code analysis he had done several years ago.

    The city’s action, which forced out the tenants of 26 units on the top two floors of the three-story building, was the result of a new program instituted by McNutt almost as soon as he arrived in February.
    In Fawcett’s view, the city would not work with him so he could meet code requirements at a lower cost. Fawcett said when he bought the Goddard Block in 1990 it was a “derelict, vacant” building that he spent about a year and a half renovating to bring up to existing code.

    By 1992, the apartments were filled and he had commercial tenants on the ground floor. But when the recession hit toward the end of 2008 and Fawcett began seeing commercial vacancies, problems started to mount and got worse after the city updated its building and life safety codes for older buildings a few years ago. According to the city’s assessing records, the building was constructed in 1900.

    They wanted us to upgrade to the current code,” which was prohibitively expensive Fawcett said in a Wednesday [April 19] phone interview.

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