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Following fire, Allston landlord cited for illegal rooming

The owner of a building that caught fire in Allston last week has been cited by the city for illegally housing residents. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
The owner of a building that caught fire in Allston last week has been cited by the city for illegally housing residents. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

An Allston landlord was cited Thursday for illegal rooming after a large fire damaged the two-story home early last Wednesday morning, city officials said.

The fire began when a ceiling fan short-circuited in a second floor bathroom, according to Boston Inspectional Services Commissioner William Christopher.

“Understand that the cause of the fire had nothing to do with these issues,” Christopher said. “Upon entry to the building we found this situation.”

After the fire, inspectors found the building lacked a sufficient fire protection system, and that the landlord was operating the building as a lodging house while it was classified as a residential home, Christopher said.

“The fire protection system was [for] a residential home,” Christopher said.  “He was operating a lodging house without the proper license … and he had inadequate fire protection for the building.”

Christopher said that in order to operate as a lodging house, a building must have an interconnected fire protection system, as well as two exits for each unit. He added that violations are not necessarily common throughout the city.

“We know that [code violations] exist throughout the city, and every time we find one or happen upon one, we take the appropriate action to make it correct,” he said.

He said Allston is the most prone neighborhood to the issue of illegal rooming.

The landlord was cooperative after receiving the citations, Christopher said.

“He brought in a prepared statement basically saying that he would comply with all of the zoning and all of the rules and regulations,” Christopher said.

He added that the landlord now has 30 days to fix the issues associated with violations, although the building is currently not occupiable.

No Boston University students were reported to be living in the residence.

Going forward, Christopher said he hopes the safety and protection of residents, including students, are a priority for city officials.

“We want to make sure all of the residents in the city of Boston are protected,” he said. “That’s the commitment Mayor [Martin] Walsh has made to the city.”

Steve MacDonald, a spokesperson for the Boston Fire Department, advised Boston residents to check their living spaces to make sure that everything is up to code in order to better ensure their safety.

“Have a little responsibility and check your environment to see that it’s safe for you,” MacDonald said.

Christopher encouraged students and parents to be aware the safety guidelines of any home they are staying in.

“My hope is that and one of the key things renters and students and people renting a room should look at is if there is a deadbolt on the bedroom,” he said. “You should ask the landlord, ‘What does the city see the use group of this building to be?’ If they have any questions, they should put a phone call into the 311.”

Several Boston residents expressed concern about fire safety issues and code violations throughout the city.

Scott Johnston, 35, of Allston, said although he has never experienced any issues with code violations or fires, he agrees that the landlord should be held accountable.

“The landlord should have taken more responsibility with making sure his property was up to code, even if the fire wasn’t caused by a code violation,” Johnston said.

Twana Allen, 46, of Allston, said she was concerned about the possibility of other landlords not keeping their buildings up to code.

“Keeping up the buildings is a part of what the people who live there pay for, so it’s concerning,” Allen said.

Victor Chiang, 40, of the North End, said he also thinks landlords need to be more forthcoming with their tenants.

“Landlords need to tell their tenants if there are issues before they write a check,” Chiang said. “It’s their duty as a property owner.”

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