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Somerville Aldermen Rail Against Rats, Absentee Landlords

One section of Somerville has set up a neighborhood watch group to monitor the rodents, said an alderman.

Several members of the Somerville Board of Aldermen vented anger about the rat problem in parts of the city, and they put the blame at the feet of absentee landlords. The city's Inspectional Services Division was also a target of their frustration.

Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston sparked the string of angry statements with an order that the Inspectional Services Division deal with a "greatly increased rodent infestation" around .

"The neighbors have actually sort of got their own neighborhood watch group going. Imagine a neighborhood watch group for rodents rather than criminals," Heuston said.

The alderman said she put together a "detailed plan" about what she wants from Inspectional Services, implying the division's response over the past few years hasn't dealt with the problem adequately.

"I don't need another daytime job … but if I need to ask the city to pay me as a consultant to advise this department on how to approach an infestation where several people have said to me they're thinking of putting their houses on the market, long term residents, because they can no longer live there, their grandchildren cannot play in the back yard, if I have to do that, I will," she said.

"The crux of this problem and the base of this problem has to do with absentee landlords who are ignoring their property," Heuston said.

Alderman At-Large William White, who chairs the Board of Aldermen's Public Health and Public Safety Committee, said he was going to invite department heads to an upcoming meeting, and "I want an action plan prepared ahead of time."

Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente said of the rat problem, "I think this is singly probably one of the worst things we have in the city."

He talked of an absentee landlord next to his house whose property has "nine holes in the ground. Now, he's happy in New Hampshire, but we've got to deal with it. I've had two rats going down my driveway in the last two days, and they're coming from those holes."

Alderman At-Large John Connolly said, "I don't think any of us have been satisfied with any of the attempts at this particular time to deal with this issue."

"This is much larger than just Inspectional Services. This is a public health hazard," he said.

He, too, placed blame at the feet of absentee landlords, saying, "The absentee landlord issue is ever becoming a bigger, bigger problem"

If people walk around his neighborhood, "Anyone would notice the condition of the homes that aren't owner occupied," Connolly said.

He added, "This is a major threat to our public health, it must be dealt with with all hands on deck."

tink1024 June 15, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Ward 1 is no better! We pay out of pocket for rodent control, why then do we pay taxes??????????? Its DISGUSTING... :-(
Patch Water June 15, 2012 at 01:14 PM
We have "b"itched and complained and while I can agree with PART of the problem being absent landlords who don't care..... I have to say that often it's tenants who don't care, who don't use the proper receptacles, who don't clean up after themselves.... No landlord should have to clean up after tenants that are disgusting pigs! HOWEVER... that being said, I must say that it's way to easy for the city to blame the continued problem on this alone. The RATS are here (in more ways than one) and to turn the other cheek is often the case. It's digging and ripping up roadways and properties without so much as baiting the areas BEFORE doing so! Chase them out of their rat hole, wait for people to "b"itch and complain and then, MAYBE then we'll come out and do a LITTLE something..... MAYBE....
Somerville Home Owner June 15, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Somerville's Inspectional Services Division is doing a horrible job with respect to this topic and in general. Go *anywhere* in the city, even the nicer areas, and you'll see properties that are not properly maintained. For example, there is a house on the corner of Kidder and Bay State that needs to be addressed. The yard is overgrown (rodents like that), there are 3 cars that have been abondoned on the driveway for at least 6 years (!), there is a door to a missing second floor balcony, etc etc. And I have seen much worse. Why aren't these properties dealt with? Most towns/cities cite you for the smallest things to make sure that properties are well maintained. In Somerville, it seems like the property can be about to collapse and nobody does anything. It's ridiculous!
East Somerville Renter September 04, 2012 at 01:23 PM
I recommend that residents living next to poorly managed properties look up who owns them. The answer may surprise you. The deplorable two/three family home next door to us is owned and mismanaged by the Somerville Housing Authority (SHA). One of the tenants in the SHA building has rats coming up through her floor boards from the basement and climbing up through the rain spouts and dropping into the house through holes along the porch roof. The home has boarded up doors and basement windows, overgrowth and multiple trashcans filled with rodent holes on the bottoms. The rats feed there and then creep under our fence into our yard where they nest in our children's sandbox. That sandbox is now filled with rat feces and urine and baited rodents. We continue to wait for the city to hold the SHA responsible for its safe removal. After four years living next to the SHA building and two year's of my and other tenants calling 311 where little was done, I called Ed Nuzzo (Director of Inspectional Services) directly. He met with me right away and the city began addressing the problem. The repair and habitability of the SHA building is finally being addressed -- slowly. The director of SHA, Joe Macaluso, is responsible for the safe, clean and healthy environments of SHA buildings but has failed with this one. How many others are out there?
Marie October 22, 2012 at 01:52 PM
My neighbors have recently had to pay an exterminator to deal with a rat infestation in their house. This is in a neighborhood that has never, until the past year or so, ever seen a rat. There are several things at play here. One, there is a great deal of large-scale construction going on in the streets around us, and it seems as if the city and the developers are not being pro-active about what generally happens when large-scale digging takes place. This should be handled by the city and the developer. There is also a playground on our street. Unlike homeowners, who are required to store trash in covered containers, the city is not. The trash containers in the park are completely open. People are allowed to host birthday parties and other events in the park, then the trash sits in open containers at least overnight, sometimes for a day or two. All of the trash receptacles on the bike path are also open. The city needs to take control now, before this gets any worse, because I see this city going down the tubes fast, and all of the trendy shops and restaurants and family gathering nonsense will not in the end be enough to make people want to stay here.

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