November 22, 2013

Judge says Augusta landlord must allow city code inspections

Jim Pepin had argued that the city lacked probable cause to conduct such inspections.

By BETTY ADAMS Kennebec Journal

(Continued from page 1)

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Jim Pepin

Kennebec Journal File Photo

• 41 Washington St. has substandard exits as far as the guardrails and handrails and undersized egress windows.

One building also had an interior corridor, but the doors leading to it were not fire-rated, Overton testified.

Spurling asked Overton whether he had measured the egress windows, and Overton said no. He said a tenant allowed him inside her apartment at 80 Northern Ave., but did not want him to inspect it for compliance with the safety code, telling him she feared being evicted.

Augusta Fire Chief Roger J. Audette, said the department had been called to a fire at 146 Northern Ave., where firefighters searching for second-floor occupants briefly found their only exit blocked by fire.

He testified that the lack of a second exit violated the safety code.

“Firefighters are in these buildings when they’re on fire,” Audette said. “To give them quick ability for secondary means of escape is extremely important.”

He also said balconies and stairs need to be safe for emergency medical technicians to respond to rescue calls and to safely carry people from buildings.

“In this particular matter, both the codes enforcement officer and the fire chief identified and observed apparent violations of the code in each one of the properties,” Langsdorf argued in closing. “Our position is that’s sufficient probable cause for the city to inspect buildings for public safety, not for criminal prosecution.”

Spurling said the city failed to provide enough specifics to be allowed to search the building.

“The reality is they just want to have a general search warrant,” Spurling said. “Probable cause still has to exist in one form other than ‘I stood outside building and I don’t think they are in compliance.’ ”

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

Twitter: @betadams

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