Thursday, June 29, 2017

Landlord Faces Criminal Charge For Allegedly Cutting Off Water, Electricity To Tenants' Apartment In Effort To Give Them The Boot, Despite Court Order Directing Against Doing So

In Bourne, Massachusetts, The Bourne Enterprise reports:
  • A landlord from Sagamore Beach has been charged with violating state law by cutting off utilities to people to whom she had rented the second floor of her home on Oakwood Drive.

    Elizabeth M. Cheney, 47, of Oakwood Drive was arraigned in Falmouth District Court last Thursday, June 8. Ms. Cheney was charged with failing to provide utilities to a couple who was renting the upper floor of her home. Court records show that, on several occasions, Ms. Cheney shut off the water and electricity to a second-floor apartment that she had rented to Joseph Saldi, his wife, Meredith Oldfield, and their two children.

    According to the court records, Mr. Saldi told Bourne police that utilities had been shut off on March 19, following a verbal altercation with Ms. Cheney that day.

    Mr. Saldi said Ms. Cheney warned them that she was going to cut the power and water, police said. Shortly after the encounter, utilities were shut off and not turned back on until the next day, he said. Mr. Saldi said he had a signed, one-year lease with Ms. Cheney that included all utilities. The lease expires in September 2017, he said.

    Police spoke with Ms. Cheney, who said she was in the process of evicting Mr. Saldi and his family. Bourne Police Lieutenant Brandon M. Esip said that the reason for evicting the couple was not part of the police investigation. Lt. Esip added that, barring an emergency situation under which keeping utilities on would pose a safety threat, there is no legal justification for shutting off power and water to tenants.

    “A landlord cannot shut off utilities as a punitive measure,” he said.

    Under state law, any landlord who is required under the terms of a signed contract or lease to provide utilities, and does not, can be fined up to $300, or imprisoned for up to six months. Police said that Ms. Cheney denied the existence of a lease agreement, and Mr. Saldi was unable to provide officers with a copy of the lease.

    Court documents showed that police were called to the residence again later in the month by Mr. Saldi who said Ms. Cheney had again turned off his water, despite being awarded a temporary restraining order against the landlord from Falmouth District Court on March 20. The order said that Ms. Cheney was to refrain from tampering with the water and electricity to the upstairs apartment, or face a civil fine.