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Portsmouth rooming house violations lead to lawsuit against owner

Union Leader Correspondent

March 27. 2014 8:13PM

BRENTWOOD — The city of Portsmouth filed a civil lawsuit against the owner of a 33-unit rooming house, claiming the owner routinely failed to deal with a variety of public health and safety issues.

The city is asking a Rockingham County Superior Court judge to file a permanent injunction against the owner of Brewster Rooms, located at 21 Brewster Street, to force him to fix the ongoing building code violations.

The court action comes days after the city council voted not to renew the building's permit to operate on March 3.

Portsmouth's City Attorney, Robert Sullivan, told a judge in a petition that the goal is to force Brian Hogan, the owner, to fix problems in the building rather than shut it down and force out residents.

Residents who live at the building submitted a petition to the city, "many of whom do not own cars and need to live at the facility to access their jobs, who feel they will not be able to get housing in the city if the facility is shut down," according to the lawsuit.

The city is asking a judge to impose a $250 daily fine for each of the violations.

City inspectors say that Hogan has failed to replace broken furniture, provide soap and towels in shared bathrooms, remedy a bed bug infestation and provide reports on pest control treatment to the city's health department, according to Sullivan.

The petition marks the second lawsuit the city has filed against Hogan, who currently operates the building under Bach Realty, LLC, according to court records.

Hogan entered into an agreement with the city in July 2006 that required him to fix 89 items that violated health, fire safety, building and electrical and plumbing codes.

Since 2007, the involvement of city health and code inspectors along with police and fire departments regarding the building's issues, "have been constant, ongoing and have substantially exceeded similar efforts required by any other property located in the city of Portsmouth," Sullivan said.

The Islington Creek Neighborhood Association has complained to the city about allowing Brewster Rooms to remain in operation while it continues to not adhere to rules set down by the city.

In 2013, 43 police calls were made to the building, including 11 noise complaints, several complaints involving intoxication, three domestic disputes, stalking, disorderly conduct harassment and several well being checks, according to Sullivan.

Hogan has until the end of May to respond to the court action.

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