Re: “Property that burned had triggered complaints, but tenant views on landlord mixed,” Nov. 2:

Something terrible happened on Noyes Street last Saturday morning. But before the smoke had even cleared, the concern about those young people who died there became obscured by the competing interests of various groups. Realtors rallied around their fellow Realtor, landlord Gregory Nisbet, and opined on tenants disabling smoke alarms, before the investigation even began.

Stating that he’d received neighbors’ complaints about the house but never set foot in it, City Councilor Ed Suslovic rather casually characterized it as “a typical student-ghetto type house” and said that despite knowing Mr. Nisbet, he did not discuss those complaints with the landlord.

The city has failed to put fire and building code violations online, so it took until Monday morning before someone could manually obtain them, and then only to provide them to the fire marshal for the investigation, but not the press or public.

I’m haunted by the thought of those young men and women in the house in an intense fire, particularly those in third-floor attic rooms. Drive around the neighborhood and see all the similar third- and fourth-floor attic rentals with tiny windows and think about it.

I used to live in a home I owned near the University of Southern Maine, near a so-called “nuisance” house owned by a Realtor. I know just how much work it took for me and my neighbors to confront the landlord, calling the city and the police often, to even obtain a minimal positive response.

A number of years ago there was a tragic fire in the Congress Square area where a tenant died because they had inadequate building egress. City leaders expressed dismay and pledged to do something better about rental property safety inspections. We haven’t, but we need to, right now.

Heidi E. Johnson


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