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Ruling Coming Soon in Somers Rooming House Case

This summer, the town of Somers filed a complaint against Marie-Therese Demers and the tenants of her rooming house at 129 Springfield Rd., claiming nuisances and filth that were injurious to the public health.

Soon, Judge Samuel Sferrazza will rule in the case of the town of Somers against Marie-Therese Demers and the rooming house that she operates at 129 Springfield Rd. A timetable hasn’t been set for this ruling, but it is expected soon.

According to court documents, on July 27, a complaint was filed against Demers and the tenants of her rooming house. The complaint said that prior to July 3, there nuisances and filth that were injurious to the public health, including but not limited to bed bug infestation, leaking and inoperable plumbing fixtures, inoperable fire alarms, a leaking roof, and storage of junk at the property.

The document also states the Somers Sanitarian Steven Jacobs wrote to Demers and notified her of the violations and requested that she fix them. According to the complaint, the town felt that she had neglected, refused, and failed to comply with the order.

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The complaint also stated that prior to July 3, the tenants have maintained conditions in their individual rooms, which have created or led to the nuisances and/or sources of filth. These conditions include, but are not limited to, the hoarding of personal items in their rooms such that any treatment for bedbug infestation cannot be effective, the failure to properly prepare their rooms for treatment of the infestation, and the failure to properly dispose of or treat infested furniture, clothing, and other personal effects.

The town claimed that these conditions significantly contributed to the nuisances and filth in the structure. The document states that without the cooperation of each of the tenants, all attempts to remedy the bed bug infestation will be ineffective.

It also said that Jacobs had made numerous attempts to inform the tenants on how to prepare their respective rooms and personal effects for the treatment of the infestation the tenants have made little or no effort to properly prepare their rooms or personal effects for the treatment.

The complaint also stated that on or near July 3, Jacobs had a notice of violation served on each of the tenants. The town felt that each of the tenant defendants had neglected, refused, or failed to comply with said notice of violation.

September

On Sept. 4, Sferrazza issued a temporary injunction and ordered Demers and the tenants to fix the problems.

The document states that, “after an evidentiary hearing, the court finds that the town of Somers has proved by a preponderance of the evidence, that a privately owned rooming house, located at 129 Springfield Rd. in that town, constitutes a nuisance and source of filth injurious to the public health, in the form of the presence of bed bugs and fleas severely infesting portions of the 15 room boarding house and the storage of material which promote such infestations.”

It also stated that under the provisions, the court granted the temporary injunction and ordered the owner of the premises to remediate and correct these infestations by good faith efforts to engage in the actions within 30 days. The court also ordered the tenants at the boarding house to cooperate in the effort by complying with the requirements.

According to the document, Demers had to abate the bedbug infestation throughout the house by hiring a professional/licensed exterminator to exterminate the infestation, abate and remove all filth in all common areas throughout the house, repair tiles in hallway, remove all spoiled food on shelves in basement, remove from the premises (including the yard) all mildewed and infested bedding and other junk stored in the basement, fix all openings in the basement which allow vermin to enter the structure, remove all infested furniture in common areas, remove all infested furniture debris and other junk from the yard, remove all infested mattresses currently stored in the outdoor shed, and refrain from renting vacant rooms until all the other items are completed.

The tenants were told to prepare all individual living spaces for treatment for bed bug infestation, thoroughly clean all personal living spaces, remove and dispose of all trash, garbage, junk, and infested clothing, furniture, and other personal belongings from personal livings spaces, and to cooperate with any instructions provided by a professional, licensed exterminator.

The document stated that the willful failure to obey these orders may be a contempt of court for which the offending party or parties may be fined or incarcerated to compel compliance. It also said that the health officials in Somers could pursue any other lawful means to abate this nuisance as set forth under to enforce the injunction.

On Sept. 5, Demers’ lawyer, Keith Fuller, issued a notice to the tenants. It stated, “The court has ordered that the tenants are to actively cooperate in the landlord’s efforts to remediate the bedbug infestation and make repairs to the property.”

It said that such active cooperation includes preparing individual living spaces for treatment for bed bugs, thoroughly cleaning all personal living spaces, removing and disposing of all trash, garbage, junk, and infested clothing, furniture, and other personal belongings from personal living spaces, and cooperating with any instructions provided by a professional, licensed exterminator.

The notice reiterated what the judge had said about that the willful failure to obey these orders may be a contempt of court for which the offending party or parties may be fined or incarcerated to compel compliance.

It said that compliance with this order was to be immediate – no later than a date to be provided by the landlord – in order to allow time for the exterminator to treat the property.

On Sept. 26, Demers filed a document that stated that she had arranged for treatment by a professional on Sept. 21 and that two weeks before that, she and the exterminator provided written notice and instructions to all tenants as to how to prepare for an effective treatment.

She said that the exterminator appeared to treat, however, several tenants had refused to follow the preparation instructions, resulting in an ineffective treatment. The document said that at least two tenants, Cleveland Reid and Peter Devylder, exhibited willful and material non-compliance. Reid would not allow access to his room, and Devylder moved stuff into the common area and hallway, then moved it back into his room.

According to the document, the exterminator said that Devylder’s room was the site of a substantial infestation of bed bugs and would require additional treatments in order to have an effective treatment. Because of having no access to Reid’s room, and the transfer of infested belongings to common area and then back to the room, the exterminator could not provide an effective treatment.

According to the document, Demers notes with particularity an egregious disregard of the order and public health obligations by Devylder. It states, “It is apparent from his past and present alleged conduct that his behavior, in denying access for treatment, hoarding, maintaining infested clothing and belongings, and purposefully moving infested items into a common area – in direct defiance of the court order – constitutes a public menace.”

The document also states that on Sept. 23, Devylder took items of trash and refuse from a properly established trash pile on he property and spread them in and around the property, for an unnecessary and improper purpose. It also said that since this action, Devylder has acted as a hoarder, keeping and maintaining piles of infested clothing, personal effects, and refuse in his room.

According to this document, Demers said that she had initiated three eviction actions against Devylder since April of 2012 and that the first two cases were withdrawn or dismissed due to technicalities. It said that she recently had a new notice to quit served on him, to vacate by Sept. 14.

It also said that although Devylder has not paid $1 in rent since March of 2012, he engaged counsel to represent him in his eviction cases and has continued to reside at the property, counseling other tenants to withhold rent payments.

“Devylder is a public menace at the property,” the document reads. “He is a substantial reason for the deteriorated conditions present there, including the fact that his room shows serious infestation, yet he continues to hoard, fails to cooperate with treatments, and fails to pay rent or use and occupancy, all the while counseling other tenants to do the same.”

The document also stated that Demers looked to the court to assist her and her law-abiding tenants’ efforts to remove such an injurious presence from the property and permit them to otherwise comply with the order.

October

According to court documents, on Oct. 4 – 30 days after the issuance of the court’s order – the town reinspected the premises to determine compliance.

The document claims that the health officer determined that neither Demers nor the tenants were in compliance. In addition, the health officer contacted the company hired by Demers to treat the bed bug infestation to determine whether the infestation had been eradicated.

According to that report, the tenants and Demers failed to properly prepare their rooms for treatment of the bed bug infestation and failed to dispose of infested personal belongings, and as a result, the infestation remains.

In addition, the document states that Demers was ordered not to rent any vacant rooms until all nuisances were abated, but that Demers had been actively advertising for new tenants.

The town felt that all of the above actions by the defendants have been taken in willful violation of the court’s order. The request was that the court issue the orders that all tenants be removed from the premises, that each tenant be required to leave his or her personal property at the premises, that the property’s use as a rooming house be terminated, that Demers be ordered to pay the costs of filing the motion, together with reasonable attorney’s fees, and any other orders deemed appropriate by the court.

December

According to the Journal Inquirer, at a hearing on Thursday, the town requested that Sferrazza relocate the five remaining tenants of the rooming house and terminate Demers’ right to rent.

The paper states that Demers’ lawyer asked the judge to force only DeVylder to leave, and to extend the timeframe associated with his granting of the temporary injunction in September.

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