Tenants of a multi-family residence could be homeless now that a housing court judge has ruled a landlord no longer has to pay their housing expenses while renovations to the property are done
Hull is 4,305 miles from Dubrovnik, a Croatian city on the southern coast of the Adriatic Sea. Three years ago, Andrew Kehoe Jr., and his wife moved to that part of the former Yugoslavia to start Dubrovnik Apartment Source, a family business that finds “high quality apartment and villa rentals” for customers, according to his Web site.
But there are troubles back home in the U.S. these days for Kehoe and his sister, Jennifer, who are the owners of a multi-family residence at 39 Bay St. Town officials have taken the Kehoes to court in an attempt to get them to make necessary wiring, plumbing and other repairs.
Tenants say they are caught in the middle, faced with being forced onto the street now that Southeast Housing Court Judge Wilbur Edwards Jr., has reversed himself and dismissed a contempt order against the Kehoes and ruled they no longer have to pay housing and food costs for their displaced tenants while renovations to the house are being made.
“We always paid our rent, and there never was any problem with that,” said Richard Brown, who has lived in one of seven apartments at 39 Bay St. for three years.
At times, Brown said he and his wife, who are both disabled, have been without heat, hot water and electricity in their one-bedroom apartment that costs them $800 a month.
The Browns have been staying at the Clarion Hotel on Nantasket Beach for several weeks thanks to a special rate the town was able to negotiate for them and two of their neighbors, an elderly woman and a mother with two young children, who were also among those forced to leave their homes.
“For me, this almost amounts to a death sentence,” said Brown, who will check out of the Clarion on Thursday. “It puts an awful strain on us.”
Town counsel James Lampke said the town for years has been trying to get the Kehoes to do much needed repairs and finally went to Housing Court in late September to force the issue.
In an e-mail Monday, Andrew Kehoe referred questions to his mother, Catherine Kehoe, who indicated in another e-mail that her son wasn’t involved in the day-to-day management of the property.
Responding Tuesday in an e-mail, Catherine Kehoe said the dispute with the town was triggered this summer when the health board was contacted after she and her husband went to court to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent.
“Many of these violations were caused by the tenants themselves,” she said. “We made every attempt to repair all violations in a timely manner even the damages caused by the tenants, including three doors broken, a number of windows, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors taken down and thrown under the sink.”
Lampke said the Kehoes have failed to renew an occupancy permit for their rental property or obtain an inspection certificate from the town’s building department that is required every five years.
“The town believes the defendants should still be ordered by the court to finish repairs so these tenants who were displaced through no fault of their own can get back onto the property,” Lampke said.
He said other problems at the site have included a rear deck in danger of collapsing, a gas leak and the need to replace and relocate an inadequate circuit panel box from a utility room that sometimes takes in water during high tide and storms.
Kehoe alleged harassment on the town’s part.
“They give us a list to repair, and once that is done, a new list was given the next week, and the week after that again etc.,” she said. “It amazes us that the tenants destroy the apartments and nothing is done to them.”
The Kehoes have spent more than $40,000 the past three months making repairs to the property, Catherine Kehoe said.
The Kehoe siblings also own the house next door at 37 Bay St.
The current assessed value of 39 Bay St., is $502,800, according to the town’s assessors. The assessed value of 37 Bay St., is $463,100.
Catherine Kehoe said the family has been trying to sell both properties for the past three years.
Patriot Ledger writer Dennis Tatz may be reached at email@example.com
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