The porch at this six-unit apartment building at 15 Washington St. in Augusta partially collapsed on May 5. Tenants have moved back in after the landlord made a temporary fix. The city has asked the owner to submit plans to address six code violations within three months. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — City officials found additional life safety code violations in the six-unit apartment building where a porch collapsed last week and temporarily displaced 10 people.

The owner of the three-story building at 15 Washington St. has been cited for a total of six violations, including not having proper exterior light fixtures, not having enough smoke detectors and only having one exit out of each apartment. There are also three violations related to the condition of the porch.

Having one exit per apartment proved to be an issue last Friday when the building’s first-floor porch partially caved in due to “severe decomposition” underneath the structure, according to Rob Overton, Augusta’s director of code enforcement. City officials ordered residents to leave the building until the owner temporarily fixed the porch because it provided the only way in and out of five of the six units.

The city approved the short-term solution earlier this week, and the 10 residents have moved back into the building. They had been housed at the Super 8 in Augusta for five nights while repairs were being made.

Triple J Properties LLC, which owns the property, and Michael Lee of Asset Real Estate Management, who manages it, have 90 days to permanently fix the porch and submit a plan to address the other violations. If they do not comply, the city could take legal action and fine the owner $100 to $2,500 per day, per violation.

The nature of the new code violations are considered “very common for a building of this age,” said Overton, who added that most buildings from the early 1900s only have one entrance.


He said the city allowed the tenants to reoccupy the building despite the new findings because they do not pose imminent risks. But if a tenant moves out, the landlord is not allowed to fill the unit until they fix the problems, according to the notice of violation.

“We don’t typically close a building down because of conditions that existed at the time of its construction,” Overton said. “We give the landlord the opportunity to correct those issues.”

The violations stem from two inspections by Code Enforcement Officer Devin McGuire.

The landlord has been asked to ensure the porch is structurally sound, with firmly fastened handrails and a minimum of 6 feet, 8 inches of clearance between the top of someone’s head and the underside of the structure above.

The landlord also must add lighting to the stairway, with light switches accessible without someone having to move up or down the stairs; add access to a second exit for each unit; and add smoke detectors so there is one in each bedroom, outside each bedroom and on each level of the building including the basement.

The code violations come at a time when city officials have been discussing regulations to deal with dangerous short-term rental living situations, such as a licensing system that would require annual inspections of rental units.

Amid the housing shortage across Maine, Overton said, tenants have told him they delayed reporting concerns because they feared their building would closed and that they would be evicted.

“It’s these exact situations that have led my office and the fire department to recommend a rental licensing program to begin inspecting all rental units to make sure they’re safe and that we’re not finding these conditions as a result of a complaint,” he said.

Overton said he has never pursued fining a landlord for these types of violations during his tenure with the city.

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