Judge Samuel J. Sferrazza has ruled in the case of the town of Somers vs. Marie-Therese Demers and has decided that relocation of the occupants of the rooming house is the only realistic remedy to remediate the public health nuisance posed by the property at 129 Springfield Rd.
According to Sferrazza’s written decision, the town requested, and the court agreed with the suggestion, that the court exercise the authority to displace the owner and the other occupants, which will provide the occasion for the town to remediate the property.
The decision states that all occupants will leave the premises until such time as the town sanitarian determines that the health code violations have been fixed. In order to prevent the spread of bed bugs to other locations, all occupants must leave their possessions at the property unless and until the sanitarian approves removal.
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Some of the residents living at the property on Sept. 4, when the court ruled that the town had proven that the private boarding house was a health nuisance, injurious to the public because of a severe infestation of bed bugs, have vacated, leaving the owner and four boarders at the home.
On Sept. 4, the court ordered the owner and occupants to take specific steps to help eradicate the infestation and eliminate other health code violations that were evident at the property.
On Oct. 15, Somers Sanitarian Steven Jacobs conducted a scheduled visit, and on Nov. 28 he conducted a surprise visit.
According to Sferrazza, portions of the premises remain infested with the vermin, including the owner’s bedroom. Common areas are still filthy, floor and wall tiles are missing, water pipes leak badly, two sinks are clogged and contain standing water, an outdoor shed remains full of mattresses and other junk, a pile of trash still remains exposed to the elements, and dusty mattresses and other bedding clutter certain interior areas of the building. It is noted that these conditions were proven by eyewitness testimony and photographic evidence.
The decision says that that owner has taken some steps to comply with the court’s orders – she engaged an exterminator who has made five or six applications of insecticide – with limited success. Lack of full compliance with each of the exterminator’s requested preparation by the owner and the occupants has prohibited complete eradication of the bed bug problem.
Sferrazza said that despite the efforts, it is clear that the owner and tenants have failed to satisfy the court’s orders. He also said that Demers cannot afford further services of an exterminator and has insufficient funds to repair the plumbing and old tile problems. Sferrazza also writes that she cannot afford to heat the structure, and that the town has, on one occasion, supplied emergency heating oil. He said that the lack of heat and hot water extended for six days at one point.
Sferrazza also wrote that some of the toilets are disgustingly filthy, as are some common areas. While some trash has been taken away, a pile of dirty mattresses and other refuse remain in the yard. He also noted that spoiled food has been removed from the basement as ordered.
It is also written that the owner is an infirm, elderly person who requires a walker to get around and she cannot climb stairs. She stays on the floor of the house where her living area is and cannot get to other parts. Sferrazza writes that Demers relies on a couple of tenants to clean her living space and do some things around the house in exchange for lower rent.
“She lacks the physical and financial wherewithal to correct the health code violations and even to maintain the home in its present, substandard condition,” Sferrazza wrote. “She has no source of income from the home because tenants have refused to pay rent until the bed bug situation is rectified. The owner’s attempts to evict nonpaying tenants have failed because of the deteriorated and infested structure.”
According to the decision, Demers proposed that the court remove certain boarders and allow her to rent rooms to a new group of tenants. The document states that Demers contends that this will generate an income stream through which she can fix the health code violations.
“There is absolutely no reason to believe that new tenants will be any more willing to share their rooms with bed bugs or live with the threat of that development than are the present and former tenants,” he wrote. “In addition, adopting her proposal would allow an owner to sidestep the responsibilities and defenses to eviction for breach of these responsibilities under our landlord-tenant statutes. Finally, the owner is physically and financially incapable of rectifying the health threats at this property or even maintaining the status quo. The prospects for progress under the owner’s plan are nil.”