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Concord court orders help for evicted tenants

Staff Report
August 09. 2014 10:29PM
The Vegas Building on Main Street in Concord was the site of recent closure to residents due to unsafe conditions. (Bruce Taylor/Union Leader)

CONCORD - Six of the nearly 30 people who were living in the Vegas Block building at 148-158 N. Main St., which it was declared uninhabitable Thursday, will be put up in local hotels temporarily and a review hearing was scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Sixth Circuit Court-Concord District Division Judge John Coughlin Friday morning issued a temporary stay to the immediate eviction ordered after a city inspection requested by the new owner. Tenants were ordered to leave the building by noon Friday, but five went to New Hampshire Legal Assistance for help.

Elliot Berry, NHLA managing attorney, said the city was ordered to put up the five people, plus a person who went straight to the city for help, at least until Tuesday's hearing.

Remi Hinxhia bought the building at the corner of Centre and Main streets at a foreclosure auction for $975,000 and back taxes June 23. He owns the adjoining building and requested the inspection that revealed at least a dozen life safety code violations, including fire doors that did not close, holes in walls, missing plumbing fixtures and roaches and bedbugs.

Tenants had already received eviction notices, but thought they had one to three months to find new housing. Instead, they had less than 24 hours, according to notices posted at the building Thursday.

Deputy City Manager Carlos Baia said there have been issues with the building for the seven years he has been with the city. When it comes to ordering a building closed, he said: "We tread very carefully." But he said the life safety issues demanded action.

"It's a scary building . (but) so is sleeping in a park or on the street," Berry said.

If Hinxhia rehabilitates the building the way he did the adjoining building, Berry speculated that most of the tenants wouldn't be able to afford to live there.

Low- and moderate-income housing is scarce in Concord. "This is just going to make it worse," Berry said. "It's a shame it had to happen so precipitously."

Stephanie Bray, managing attorney in the Concord office of NHLA, said her agency has been working with the building's residents. She said it was difficult to find hotel rooms for the ousted tenants and that she had high praise for the SPCA, which took in at least a half dozen cats who couldn't go to hotel rooms with their owners.

Bray said federal law requires tenants of a building sold as a foreclosure be given a 90-day notice for eviction.

She said the judge ordered the city to post a notice on the front entrance of the building, notifying evicted tenants to contact the Human Services office for assistance, with the telephone number and address of the office provided.

The building owner was ordered to padlock four specific units, but, "upon reasonable notice the property owner in conjunction with Concord Fire Department will give access to remove personal property."

The order also requires all doors to be secured and padlocked after Concord police confirm the building has been vacated, with any resident refusing to leave voluntarily being removed by police. And subject to a charge of criminal trespass.

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