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Malden landlord denies knowledge of illegal tenants in house that burned

Posted by Alix Roy  April 9, 2010 08:04 AM

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IMG_0498.JPGThe owner of a Cross Street house destroyed in a fire on Easter Sunday said he will begin quarterly inspections at all of his properties after city officials found evidence of illegal tenants living on the first floor of the burned two-family home.

Igor Bily denied any knowledge of extra tenants living in the building after city inspectors discovered evidence of keyed locks on doors within the first floor unit of the home. Fire officials later determined the cause of the fire to be an overloaded extension cord on the first floor where Assistant Fire Chief John Colangeli said several bedrooms resembled “individual apartments.”

On Tuesday, Bily said the news came as a shock and would change the way he handles his other rental properties, which include two residences in Malden and others in Medford and Everett.
 
“I was horrified when I found out,” he said. “I respect people's privacy. Maybe it's wrong, maybe I should have checked more often.”

As a result of the incident, Bily is working with his lawyer to insert clauses into his contracts authorizing him to conduct quarterly inspections of all units. Currently, he enters his apartments only to collect rent or make repairs. At 11 Cross Street, he never noticed more than one or two people occupying the first floor space, he said.

“We always met in the kitchen, I didn't see anything out of the ordinary,” he said.

An upstairs tenant, who had occupied the unit with his brother for 28 years, said he noticed evidence of overcrowding below but hesitated to report it for fear of causing trouble.

“They definitely had a lot of people living down there,” he said. “I kind of kept a blind eye to it because they were immigrants and I didn't want to cause any trouble but it got worse and worse.”

The tenant, who asked to remain anonymous, said Bily had nothing to do with the setup.

“The landlord definitely didn't anything to do with it,” he said. “They just got greedy and had more and more people come live there to help with the bills.”

The building was demolished  after City Inspector Scott Fitzgerald deemed it unsafe because of severe structural damage. One upstairs tenant, who asked that his name not be used, has been released from Massachusetts General Hospital after firefighters pulled him unconscious from the burning building. According to Malden Fire Chief Michael Murphy, no smoke alarms alerted occupants of the fire.
 
Investigation into the illegal tenants has been referred to the Mayor's Housing Task Force for further discussion with the property owner, said Deborah Burke, the city’s project director for economic development. Possible penalties have not been determined.

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