PORTSMOUTH — The city's legal and health departments are once again investigating a boarding house at 21 Brewster St. after a man's body was found in one of the rooms days after his death.
Police were called to the address for what was reported as an unattended death on July 20.
On Saturday, in a completely separate incident, police evacuated the boarding house and several nearby buildings after a report of a simulated bomb inside.
“Prior to either the finding of the dead body or the bomb incident, city officials have been concerned that conditions inside that building were not as required by law,” City Attorney Robert Sullivan said Wednesday.
In 2006, the owner of the building was facing nine pages of health code violations. Sullivan said the filing of a lawsuit against the owner prompted him to action, and the violations were taken care of at great expense.
But Sullivan said involvement of municipal inspectors and enforcement personnel is “more or less an ongoing process.”
“The issues change, but the property remains the same,” Sullivan said.
He said at this point, inspectors are still assembling a list of current health and safety code violations. Once that is complete, city staff will determine what to do next based on the severity of the violations, particularly the threat to public health, or the health and safety of the tenants.
Sullivan said having a dead body in an apartment in the building for days is certainly a health concern.
“This is my personal opinion. The answer is yes, a dead body lying in an apartment, smelling so bad that the residents think it's garbage, strikes me as a threat to the health and safety of the tenants,” Sullivan said.
The large building just off Islington Street near the Mobil gas station houses just over 30 small units, Sullivan said, most with shared bathrooms.
In 2007, the city council passed a boarding house ordinance that requires property owners to secure an annual license to operate.
“It creates a situation where there is automatic review on a yearly basis of the performance of the property owners in maintaining compliance with the law,” Sullivan said.
He said the reviews have been done annually in January since the ordinance was adopted, and the owner of the Brewster Street building has obtained his license each time.
“An important point to be considered, is that if the license was not issued, the tenants would be without a place to live,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said there is no other boarding house of this size within the city.
“And frankly, virtually all of the issues we have with this kind of housing come from this one location,” he said.
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