Westbrook has spent $1,700 on emergency housing for tenants displaced from buildings that the city condemned for life-threatening code violations in recent months.

On Monday, the Westbrook City Council will consider an ordinance that would require landlords to reimburse the city for those costs.

City officials say the creation of a new code compliance officer – as well as heightened public awareness since a fire in a Portland apartment building killed six people last year – has resulted in the city condemning three multi-unit buildings and an apartment since June, displacing more than 40 tenants.

None of them has returned to the homes and many never will.

Although some of the property owners have covered the cost of temporary housing for their tenants, the city took responsibility for the rest.

The city has asked to be repaid by the property owners, but having an ordinance would require reimbursement.


“They’ve always been morally responsible. We’re trying to make them legally responsible,” said City Administrator Jerre Bryant.

The proposed ordinance says the city will bill the property owner for any lodging, deposit and utility costs incurred as a result of tenants being displaced because of code violations. If the bill is not paid within 30 days, the city may pursue legal action to recover the costs.

If the ordinance is adopted, Bryant said, it wouldn’t apply to the owners of the properties that have already been condemned. He hopes it never would have to be enforced, but that landlords would comply voluntarily.

Bryant said he wasn’t aware of other municipalities with similar ordinances.

The bulk of the cost the city has incurred was from housing the 23 tenants who were displaced from a building on Brackett Street in June.

An inspection of a two-unit, three-story house at 158-160 Brackett St. revealed an insufficient number of smoke detectors, wiring that had been chewed and exposed by animals, several nonfunctioning electrical outlets, overloaded circuits, blocked doorways and a deck with structural deficiencies.


In a five-bedroom apartment on the second and third floors, tenants had run extension cords into a bedroom and bathroom that had been without electricity for months.

The American Red Cross initially put up the tenants in the Super 8 motel in Westbrook, but the city took over until they were able to find new housing.

David Finocchietti, the code compliance officer, said repairs to the building are continuing.

The landlord for an eight-unit building at 689 Main St. – where smoke detectors weren’t working, wiring was exposed and outlets had short-circuited – covered the cost of motel rooms for the 12 tenants displaced on July 7, then paid them to find new places to live.

City National Bank of Beverly Hills, California, which had foreclosed on the property in November, plans to sell the building, Finocchietti said.

On July 28, an apartment in a building at 34 Brackett St. that was rented by a family of five and also occupied by others was condemned for structural, electrical and sanitation problems.


The building has not yet been repaired, Finocchietti said. He wasn’t sure how much time the landlord or the city has paid to house the displaced tenants.

On Friday, the city had to ask occupants of a building being rehabbed at 80 Brown St. to leave for the second time because of major electrical issues and no smoke detectors, Finocchietti said. He said the landlord is paying for their temporary housing.

City officials have said the code violations found in the condemned buildings were similar to those in the apartment building on Noyes Street in Portland where the deadly fire occurred.


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