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Residents of Melrose apartment building suddenly homeless

Posted by Marcia Dick  January 13, 2014 06:37 PM

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Residents of a Melrose apartment building evacuated on Jan. 3 because of high carbon monoxide readings now are facing lease terminations.

The 36-unit building at 119 West Wyoming Ave. had frozen pipes, leaving the property with no running water, a violation of the state public health code.

Many residents have been staying temporarily at a Route 1 hotel, with the cost being picked up by the city.

Over the weekend, residents received telephone calls from their landlords, who stated their leases were being voided immediately, said Nick Frye, a lawyer representing 10 residents.

Frye on Monday filed a complaint in Malden District Court challenging the lease termination.

“I want people to have a roof over their head,” Frye said in an interview on Monday. “The reasons the pipes froze is the negligence of the owners, not the tenants.”

A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, 11 a.m., in Malden District Court.

“I want the landlord to provide them with a list of damages,” Frye said. “I want them to start providing reasonable accommodation and to reimburse them for any other expenses.”

The property is owned by 119 West Wyoming Ave. LLC of Watertown, and is assessed at $3.4 million, city property records show.

The ownership group is managed by Donald J. Leone and Frank C. Pannesi, state records show.

Leone could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Kenneth Leitner, a Boston lawyer representing the landlords, declined to comment on Monday.

On Jan. 3, amid a heavy snowstorm, residents awoke with no heat in the 86-year-old building. A boiler was later replaced, a city official said.

But later that night, a high carbon monoxide reading was detected in the building, forcing an evacuation, according to a posting on the Melrose Fire Department Facebook page.

Some residents went to stay with family and friends, but most were placed in the hotel.

Over the weekend, the city notified residents that the temporary accommodations would end on Monday.

“It’s the responsibility of the landlord, not the city, to provide temporary shelter for their tenants,” said Robert Van Campen, the city solicitor.

Van Campen estimated more than 20 people stayed at the hotel. He could not estimate the cost to the city.

The city will try to recoup the cost from the landlord, he said.

“We will move to recover the city’s expenses, whether it is through negotiation or court proceedings,” Van Campen said.

Kathy McCabe can be reached at katherine.mccabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.

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