New Britain to continue its blight sweep - WFSB 3 Connecticut

New Britain to continue its blight sweep

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(WFSB photo) (WFSB photo)

The city of New Britain has taken a new aggressive approach toward stamping out neighborhood blight.

Officials said it's a problem that generated more than 700 complaints since January.

“We want the property owners to comply with our request and maintain their property,” said Sergio Lupo, director, New Britain Building Department.

Eyewitness News spoke with two attorneys who said the problems can be caused by a string of bad tenants or landlords.

“It don't make you feel good,” said Leroy Davis of New Britain. “I mean, to walk by and notice that it’s there and people aren't doing anything about it.”

However, they said that if a property owner is a “slum lord,” tenants have rights and some good options to pursue.

Eyewitness News visited three streets that were the focus of a sweep in May. At the time, garbage could be seen everywhere on some properties, including one on Lawlor Street.

Part of that was cleaned up as of Wednesday morning. Overall, however, the mess was still obvious in certain areas.

“Some of the property managers, they knew that they were caught,” said Caleb Cowles, a New Britain sanitarian. “They knew that they had problems on their properties and they blatantly just said ‘ok, you got me. I’m going to clean it up.’”

While the Lawlor Street lot was mostly debris-free, it's far from perfect.

"It’s a slow process because there are so many neighborhoods throughout the city that have blight issues," Lupo said.

For people living in the neighborhoods, tenants can do the following:

  • Speak with the landlord, who should be fixing the problems.
  • Call the city or town. Inspectors will examine the property.
  • Take the matter to court. If it’s a criminal case, the municipality will take it from there. If it’s civil, the tenant can put financial pressure on the landlord.

“Then there's other people who just believe that they can have trash on their property and government should have no bearing on cleaning it up,” Cowles said. “That's a difference of opinion and that’s a difference of legal interpretation. Their legal interpretation means they don't have to abide by sanitary codes and to prevent rodent harborage on properties and unsafe conditions. Our legal interpretation is that everybody should be safe or free.”

Experts said that generally, landlords would get about three weeks to fix what’s wrong. If not, the case can be filed in civil court.

The court can force the landlord to make repairs. If not, it can appoint a receiver who would do it.

Timelines vary on the results and depend on how bad the conditions are. However, experts said either criminal or civil cases could be resolved in about a month.

New Britain’s task force wrote 17 citations and gave nine warnings.

May 12 was the date of the last blight sweep. Since then, officials said 90 percent of the landlords and property managers cited have complied with cleanup orders.

The city’s building inspector told Eyewitness News that plenty more will take place throughout the summer, though no dates were set.

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